showing proposed additions and alterations 1919"
Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937) was a Chicago architect with a background in landscape design. He is closely associated with the Prairie School, a uniquely American style of architecture that favoured horizontal lines (reflecting prairies) and whose most famous practitioner was Frank Lloyd Wright.
Griffin worked under Wright for a few years at the beginning of the 20th century until they had a dispute over salary payments. Ultimately, this led to an irreconcilable estrangement, and it seems Wright was rather disparaging of Griffin's talents whenever he referred to him later on.
One of the benefits of the association with Wright (beyond the obvious professional influence) was that Griffin met his future wife, Marion Mahony, at the Wright office. She, too, was an architect and a particularly gifted draughtsman (draughtswoman?).
"In the 28 years of their architectural partnership, the Griffins designed over 350 building, landscape and urban-design projects as well as designing construction materials, interiors, furniture and other household items."Dare I suggest that their marriage was established on a strong foundation? It was while they were on their honeymoon that the Griffins learned of a competition to design the city of Canberra which would become the new capital city of Australia (1927). They "worked feverishly to prepare the plans" before the submission deadline.
Their proposal was of course the winning entry (1912) and gave the Griffins international recognition. Of the Canberra plan, Walter Burley Griffin remarked:
"I have planned a city that is not like any other in the world. I have planned it not in a way that I expected any government authorities in the world would accept. I have planned an ideal city - a city that meets my ideal of the city of the future."Whether or not a survey among Australians today would give such a favourable review of the outcome is perhaps a moot point. The circular alignments and satellite arrangements of the suburbs evoke an overtly artificial reality, but after visiting (and, significantly, not living in) Canberra many times over the last couple of decades, I've become comfortable with its atmosphere at least. And, as a government bureaucracy-heavy city, it's fairly well appointed with amenities like good quality transport and roads, as well as cultural establishments. It's also close to our snowfields which is a big plus! An eponymous lake, built in 1963 in the centre of Canberra, assures that anyone who visits the city is familiar with the name of Burley Griffin.
The Griffins moved to Australia soon after their Canberra design was selected and they stayed for the next twenty-odd years. Walter Burley Griffin died in Lucknow in India in 1937 following a two year stint working in the sub-continent.
I was particularly taken with the modernist/Art Deco building designs and I'm sure I've over emphasised - in the selection above - the prevalence of incinerator designs among his legacy. It would be a starving architect that tried to rely upon municipal incinerator designing for a decent living in today's world.
- The Australian National Library purchased the last private collection of Walter Burley Griffin material in recent years. The images above were selected from more than two thousand drawings, lithographs, photographs, transparencies, postcards and negatives that were digitised and uploaded late last year (The Eric Milton Nicholls Collection). [I think I must have searched on 'plan' or 'drawing' or the somesuch]
- The extensive Griffin Society site (Australia) has a large gallery of images.
- 'An Ideal City - the 1912 Competition to Design Canberra' is a great site. They have the top forty six short-listed designs from the competition - a kind of 'unrealised Canberra' - from which I would have appropriated some images if they weren't all posted within Zoomify constraints.
- 'Walter Burley Griffin - In His Own Right' - an extensive PBS site arising from a documentary made a decade ago.
- 'Prairie Styles - An Online Museum of Prairie Style Architecture' has a quick overview gallery of some houses in Illinois designed by Griffin (before leaving for Australia).
- The Walter Burley Griffin Society of America.
- Wikipedia: Walter Burley Griffin/Prairie School.