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Canberra: Recording a Vision, Lecture with Christopher Vernon

  • Dates: 08 Jan, 2014
  • Contact: Anne Bird
  • Email:
  • Phone: 312-573-1365

January 8, at 6 p.m.  
Charnley-Persky House
1365 North Astor Street
Chicago, IL 60610

$5 suggested donation
Reservations required due to limited seating; call 312-573-1365 or email Anne Bird at THIS EVENT HAS SOLD OUT
Reception with refreshments will follow the talk.
Co-sponsored by the Chicago Chapter of SAH.

In April 1911, the Commonwealth of Australia launched an international competition for the design of its federal capital, later named Canberra. Near the year’s end, in the depths of a frozen Chicago winter, Walter Burley Griffin and his new wife and professional partner, Marion Mahony Griffin, put their heads together and poured their creative energies into recording their shared vision for Australia’s capital.

The outcome was an ensemble of 14 exquisite renderings, each, as London’s Building News and Engineering Journal reported, measuring “five feet by two feet six inches” and “delineated to a very small scale—400 ft to the inch—on account of the gigantic character of the scheme.” Like the design they represented, the renderings also were a collaborative product; the presentation’s scale, scope and production complexities mandated assistance.

We know that the Griffins co-opted office worker Roy Lippincott—soon to be Walter’s brother-in-law—and Walter’s sister Gertrude for the job. Along with this pair, Marion recorded in her memoirs that George Elgh, another employee, “helped us out with the competition drawings in Chicago”. Graphic artist Miles Sater, later Gertrude’s husband, is another likely contributor.

In this lecture, Christopher Vernon will survey the evolution of Marion’s graphic technique and cast new light on the talented assistants who helped produce the iconic renderings of Australia’s national capital.
Christopher Vernon is associate professor at the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts, at The University of Western Australia. A leading authority on the life and works of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, he was guest curator of the National Library of Australia’s exhibition Dream of a Century: The Griffins in Australia’s Capital and a contributor to the National Archives of Australia’s publication A Vision Splendid: How the Griffins Imagined Australia’s Capital.

Commonwealth of Australia Federal Capital Competition