In 1913 Walter Burley Griffin, a young architect from Chicago was the winner of a design competition for the new capital city of Australia. His wife, Marion Mahony did many of the design drawings for the project. She was the first woman in America to become a licensed architect. They made a remarkable team.
On his first visit to Australia, at the site for the future capital city, Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin told the Melbourne Press,
”I think this is a grand site for a city. Of course I’m pretty familiar with the layout of the land, but drawings and photos can give you no real idea of the contour of the country and its charms
The morning and the evening lights at Canberra are wonderful.
The shadows of the clouds and mists as they cross the mountains are very beautiful indeed.
Walter and Marion believed that good planning and architecture could improve the quality of life of the people living in a city.
With their vision, Canberra is designed to have several town centres, with corridors of greenery and bush in between, and several small lakes…
Rodney Moss, former Professor of Architecture at the University of Canberra and Director of Cox Architecture says,
”Canberra is a city designed within a landscape setting..”
It is possible to go rowing before work..
or keep an eye out for the sleeping cockatoos as you drive to work…
or walk along the backtracks behind our suburbs..
The corridors of bush means that wild birds and kangaroos live in a companionable way around us….
Magpies are part of the family…(sometimes not in spring, but that is another story)
These parrots visit our cabin in the garden for some unfrozen water in winter …
In summer our fruit trees are given over to the birds
They are worth it!
Early on a hot summer’s morning the sun shines through the gum (eucalypt) trees…
..as Walter remarked……it really is all about the light.
Once Walter Burley Griffin had seen the site he said he was reminded of a great American artist, George Innes..
he said every one of his paintings reminded him of Canberra.
Thanks to the magic of the internet, I’ve looked up some of his paintings, and I agree, the light in many of George Innes’s paintings is very similar to the light in Canberra.
Walter never did see his design completed, and he died unexpectedly while working in the north eastern Indian city of Lucknow. Fortunately Marion was at his side when he died, and she did make the journey back to Canberra to see it as a fledging city. …but that is a much bigger story..