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Griffin, Walter Burley (1876–1937)

from Sydney Morning Herald

Walter Burley Griffin, c.1912

Walter Burley Griffin, c.1912

National Library of Australia, 41695350

News of the death at Lucknow, India, of Mr. Walter Burley Griffin, designer of Canberra, has been received by cablegram by Mr. E. M. Nicholls, architect, of Sydney.

Mr. Griffin was born at Maywood, Illinois, U.S.A., in 1876, and Australia's Federal capital is an enduring monument to his genius. Graduating Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science at the University of Illinois, he practised as an architect in Chicago, in partnership with Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright, and was engaged in the planning of many buildings and subdivisions in America.

In 1912 he was awarded the first prize for his design for the Federal Capital, and the following year was appointed Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction. The layout of Canberra is based on what is known as the Griffin plan. Mr. Griffin was invited to visit Australia to assist in developing the plan, and was associated with that work until the end of 1920.

Since coming to Australia Mr. Griffin designed many buildings and subdivisions. Among the buildings which he designed in Victoria are Newman College (Melbourne University) and the Capitol Theatre, Melbourne. He also designed buildings in the various capital cities of Australia. He took an active interest in the development of Castlecrag, an estate of about 600 acres, with five miles of foreshore on Middle Harbour, Sydney, which he planned as a garden suburb. He established a scenic open-air amphitheatre at Castlecrag, where for the past two years plays have been given about every three months, mostly of a classical nature, including several Greek tragedies. Mr. Griffin had an extensive knowledge of Australian and overseas flora, which he used to advantage in landscape planning.

About l8 months ago, Mr. Griffin went to India, at the request of the University of Lucknow, where he arranged for the erection of a large library building, which is now under construction. While there he received a number of other commissions, including the laying-out and design of all buildings for the All-India Fair at Lucknow, covering an area of about 150 acres. He also planned alterations and extensive additions to rajahs' palaces, including the provision in the case of one rajah, of a private library to house about 100,000 books. The new Pioneer newspaper building in Lucknow, of which the foundation-stone was laid by the Viceroy (Lord Linlithgow) in December last, was also designed by Mr. Griffin. Death, it is stated, followed an operation.

Mrs. Griffin, who is also an American, is a fully qualified architect, and actively assisted her husband in his practice. She went to India to assist him there. It is understood that she is still in India.

About 12 months ago, Mr. Griffin's father, Mr. G. W. Griffin, who is about 90 years of age, left Chicago to visit Australia, with the object of seeing his son, but on arrival here found Mr. Griffin was in India, and had to return home to America without seeing him.

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Citation details

'Griffin, Walter Burley (1876–1937)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/griffin-walter-burley-443/text444, accessed 22 November 2017.

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