Walter Burley Griffin – Proposal – An Honorary Australian Citizen

I am pleased to announce that I moved the following motion successfully on Monday 18th November as the Griffin Ward Councillor

Resolution (CO2013/403)


1. Council support a motion for Architect, Landscape Architect and designer of Canberra and parts of Banyule City Council, Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937), to be named as an Australian Honorary Citizen (post-nominal);

2. Council write to the Hon Tony Abbott MP Prime Minister of Australia supporting the nomination in this Centenary Year of Canberra 2013 to include special background of the Municipality of Banyule.”


Walter Burley Griffin, a Chicago architect, was awarded First Prize in an international competition for the design of Australia’s national capital, Canberra, in 1912.

Griffin graduated from the University of Illinois in Architecture as a Bachelor of Science in 1899, and was employed for a time in the office of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

In 1911 the Australian Government held a worldwide competition for the design of a yet unnamed national capital to be built on the Limestone Plains, 200 miles south-west of Sydney.

The competition Board of Assessors at the time failed to agree on which of the 137 designs submitted should be given first prize. King O’Malley, Minister for Home Affairs and an American by birth, adjudicated and endorsed the majority recommendation of the Board that the first prize should go to Walter Burley Griffin.

Griffin married Marion Mahoney in June 1911. She was the second woman to graduate in Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1894.

Marion was responsible for the beautiful presentation drawings which accompanied Griffin’s design entry.

In July 1914 Griffin and his wife moved to Melbourne and then Heidelberg, during the 1st World War where he was engaged in planning the national capital and in conducting a private architectural practice.

In Melbourne Griffin designed some houses particularly in Heidelberg, Newman College at Melbourne University and the Capitol Theatre in Swanston Street.

He created No. 7 landscaped estates in the area of Eaglemont, which had No. 2 unique features

The streets or drives followed the contours of the land, as opposed to the rigid straight geometrical traditional grid pattern with their ¼ acre blocks that we all know so well.

These blocks of land share back yards, or more favourably called residential reserves, which were on the perimeters of an internal shared community land reserve, which are almost rural land in concept.

Griffin was the supreme democrat, and believed that good people should come together for their common good, particularly at weekends.

Thus all these people, had a back gate, at the rear of their house, to provide easy access to this piece of treed and natural land.

The landscaped subdivisions are the Mr Eagle Estate, at the top of the hill, and the Glenard Estate, which fronts the Boulevard and the adjacent Yarra River.

There are No. 7 internal reserves or parks, which are legally shared and maintained by their neighbours with restricted access. Some of them are quite delightful.

The Mount Eagle Estate Park, and that is what it is, is famous for the Canoe tree, where the local aboriginal tribes at the time, scalloped out a gum tree to make their canoe.

Walter Burley Griffin also built No. 3 houses in the area, in Outlook Drive and No. 2 houses in Glenard Drive, he lived in one of them – called Pholiota.

Walter Burley Griffin’s contribution to the profession of Architecture, and to this land, as his adopted home for many years, should certainly be recognised. His legacy to the finest of Architecture and our landscape, particularly of Canberra, is of the highest order in Planning and Landscape design.

Marion Mahoney (Griffin) is noted for her talent as an artist and landscape designer who was responsible for the beautiful presentation drawings which accompanied Walter Burley Griffin’s entry for the design of Canberra. In the case of Banyule, we recognise the different talents of this remarkable couple.