Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin

Comment: A memorial for Walter and Marion

Christopher-VernonSeveral months back there was an article by Christopher Vernon, of the University of Western Australia, putting forward the background and argument for a permanent memorial in Canberra for Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. Click here for that article.

There are various things scattered around Canberra that tell their story.

I join with Christopher in seeking a far more significant memorial or memorials to this creative and intelligent couple.

What I enjoyed about Christopher’s article was that he was able to point out some of the silly things that have happened around the history of Walter and Marion. I particularly liked the bit about the local architects getting all enthusiastic and possibly wanting to see about having Marion’s remains brought back to Australia. What a shame such an idea had to be squashed given that she was cremated.

I also agree with his not too subtle criticism of the 100 Years celebration of Canberra. The presence of Walter and Marion in this was indeed minimal. Yet again our infamous Canberra architectural types and planning bureaucrats managed not to make too much about Walter and Marion’s influences on this city. They were again marginalized in the great tradition of the planning and architectural fraternity of Canberra. They may name the occasional award after Walter and Marion, but that’s enough.

Of course Christopher was doing a good job as an academic of promoting the work of his students who had taken on the exercise of researching the proposal for the memorial and had come up with some schemes. Nothing like a bit healthy self promotion.

Marion-Mahony-Griffin-and-Walter-Burley-Griffin-landscape-architect-462x800As for the concept of there being a permanent and significant memorial, I have to agree. I suggest that the Canberra planning and architectural bureaucracy has not changed that much since the days in the early 20th Century when they frustrated poor Walter and Marion. Yes we should be thinking about a monument but I would worry if the local architects were to dominate the thinking and design of any proposal. Then it would most likely end up as some form of badly designed architectural public art, done by friends of the selection panel, and not something in the spirit of Walter and Marion.

I would highly recommend serious thought about such a monument. I would highly recommend that all the usual players be kept well away from such a proposal. I would highly recommend that all the usual suspects be denied any place on any selection and design panels.

Walter-MarionA proposal to deliver a suitable and significant memorial for Walter and Marion would have to require some lateral and creative thinking. I know where it should have been but that site is now occupied by the structures called Commonwealth Place.

Maybe given that Commonwealth Place has not really delivered anything significant and is not being well maintained, that the site could be redeveloped and replaced with a more suitable landscape treatment and some structures in honour of Walter and Marion. No harm in being optimistic!

Here’s another report on Christopher Vernon’s work – click here. And here’s a listing of Christopher’s research profile – click here.

Keep up the good work Christopher. That Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin memorial is definitely well overdue.


for more on architecture – click here

Paul Costigan, 31 May 2014

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