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Memento : Issue 20
May 2002 Number 20 continued on p. 2 isitors to our Canberra gallery have a rare opportunity to view some of our more fragile national treasures: Marion Mahony Griffin's exquisitely rendered watercolour drawings of Walter Burley Griffin's design for Canberra. The 12 drawings that formed the Griffins' winning entry in the 1912 federal capital design competition are currently on show in an exhibition called A Vision Splendid: How the Griffins Imagined Australia's Capital. It's the first time all 12 have been displayed in the city for which they were created. And because they are so fragile, it may be some time before they can be displayed again. Griffin's entry in the 1912 international competition has become one of the most famous of city plans. But it was Marion's beautiful representation of his design that helped him secure the prize. Rendered with watercolours and photographic dyes and illuminated with swathes of gold, the plans are works of art in themselves. They show us a city in a landscape Marion had never seen, transforming Walter's intellectual vision into a visual experience. Wo rking from their Chicago studio, the two architects relied on information gathered solely from the drawings, contour maps and plaster models of the site that were sent to various cities in the world for use by potential competitors. These items are also on display in the exhibition. One of Marion's drawings depicts a view from the summit of Mount Ainslie towards Capital Hill, where Parliament House now stands. The view today bears a remarkable likeness to the drawing made 90 years ago. But to say that the Griffin vision was fully realised could not be further from the truth. at the Archives A VISION SPLENDID Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, Castlecrag, Sydney, July 1930. Photographer Jorma Pohjanpalo. By permission of the National Library of Australia. The Griffin plan for Canberra, view from Mount Ainslie, 1911. NAA: A710, 48--50