Walter Burley Griffin's Theories Brought To Life By His Grandnephew

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14th May 2008, 03:28pm - Views: 718

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Walter Burley Griffin’s theories brought 

to life by his Grandnephew.

MELBOURNE. 14 May, 2008. When in 1912 he won the

international competition to design a new capital city for

Australia, Walter Burley Griffin became perhaps the

most important architect in Australian history.

Griffin had risen to prominence as a member of the

famous “Chicago School”, working in the practice of

Frank Lloyd Wright, although he notoriously split with

his former mentor in 1906. 

When Griffin later won the Canberra commission and

became front page news in the New York Times, this

was apparently too much for Wright to bear, and the

two never spoke again.

In later years Wright would downplay Griffin’s talents

and denigrated him as a mere “draughtsman”.

But Griffin was unquestionably much more than that, and his architectural and

planning feats stand as testament to the fact. Nowhere in the world is his legacy more

readily seen than in Australia. 

Buildings such as Melbourne’s Capitol Theatre and Newman College, Canberra itself,

the Sydney suburb of Castlecrag, and the NSW towns of Leeton and Griffith are

among the many towns, suburbs and buildings which were the product of Griffin’s


He established in his day a reputation as a great architectural and design theorist, and

was a passionate writer and lecturer, but Griffin’s body of thought has never been

available in a single volume until now.

This month, Cambridge University Press Australia will publish The Writings of Walter

Burley Griffin - a work of great design in its own right. 512 large-format pages on

high-grade art paper throughout. The book also showcases many of the buildings and

original designs that both Griffin and his wife Marion Mahoney produced.

Griffin’s grandnephew Dustin Griffin has scoured the archives of many diverse

institutions to compile this definitive volume. 

All 71 pieces of writing have been thematically categorised under ten headings to

reflect the variety and interrelations of his professional interests. 

The material is predominately Australian, with chapters including: Canberra (including

the text and drawings from his successful application for the design of the city);

Designing the House; Landscape Architecture; Architecture and Politics; and the

Future of Architecture. 

Dustin Griffin says that what emerges most strongly from the writings is Griffin’s

“fundamental conviction, mediated through his reading of social reformers and

architectural writers, that the architect has a crucial role in understanding his or her

society and expressing its needs.”

“In response to this conviction, Griffin developed a set of principles, among them the

need to build in harmonious relationship with the natural setting, the importance of

neighbourhood, or domestic community, and his idea of the ‘small house’”

It would seem Griffin’s idea’s are as relevant in the early days of the twenty-first

century as they were in the early days of the twentieth.

The editor, Dustin Griffin has media experience and is available for interview by phone

from the US. He is based at New York University.

For further information, to discuss extracts, images for reproduction and interviews,

please contact:

Adam Ford

Cambridge University Press 

ph (03) 8671 1451

mob 0417307991



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