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Memento : Issue 22
17 january 2003 memento Abusload of locals and visitors took a very different tour of the nation's capital last August. Instead of the usual national attractions, they were shown the city that might have been, had Walter and Marion Griffin's award-winning design actually been built. The tour was part of our Griffin week of activities to complement A Vision Splendid, our exhibition on the Griffins on show in Canberra last year. Leading the tour was the Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of New South Wales, James Weirick. An unabashed Griffin enthusiast, Professor Weirick lamented the lack of foresight among the early bureaucrats of Canberra who obstructed Walter Burley Griffin at every step. As the bus moved along Constitution Avenue, he noted that in the Griffin plan this street was to have been the main thoroughfare of Canberra. It was to have had shops and businesses and been served by a railway station -- instead the line terminates in Kingston on the opposite side of the lake. Travelling along Anzac Parade, flanked by its sombre memorials, Professor Weirick noted that it was quite unlike the wide boulevard of parks and gardens envisioned by the Griffins. Though a stunning architectural design, the War Memorial was a far cry from the 'casino' that the Griffins had positioned there. Their casino was not a gaming house but a place of recreation with swimming pool, lawns and confectionery stands. The current location of the War Memorial was one of many changes that eroded the Griffin plan. Others included placing the temporary Parliament House below its intended position on Camp Hill and the new Parliament House on Mount Kurrajong. The tour continued to General Bridges' grave in Duntroon, the only permanent Griffin-designed structure ever built in Canberra. At Pialligo near Canberra Airport, the group alighted to walk through the California Red Wood plantation, a Griffin-inspired landscape feature. At the last stop, as the group admired the magnificent view from the top of Parliament House, Professor Weirick was asked what he thought of the building's design. He admitted that since publishing an article criticising it in the 1980s, he had warmed to the building and thought it had some admirable qualities. He conceded that he felt the same about Canberra itself -- though not the place the Griffins designed, it is still a great city and one of the world's finest designs for a national capital. For more about the Griffin design for Canberra and why it was never built, read Canberra following Griffin: A Design History of Australia's National Capital by the late Paul Reid. It can be purchased for $90 by phoning (02) 6212 3609 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. City of dreams