1913 - 1920 Walter Burley Griffin, Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction
Portrait of Walter Burley Griffin, working on drawing, Eric Milton Nicholls Collection, between 1900 and 1935. National Library of Australia, nla.obj-150280651
Role: To direct the design and development of Canberra based on his design for the plan of Canberra.
Having won the international design competition for Canberra in 1912, Griffin was appointed the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction on 18 October 1913. He commenced work in Melbourne with his architect wife Marion Mahony Griffin in May 1914.
Almost immediately he faced difficulties. Senior bureaucrats in the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Works regarded the appointment of Griffin - an outsider and an American - as a slight on their ability and responsibilities. They set out to undermine Griffin's position, determined that his three-year contract would not be renewed.
In 1916, a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Canberra found in Griffin's favour, declaring that necessary information and assistance had been withheld from him and his powers usurped by certain officials. Although his contract was renewed, Australia's involvement in the First World War from 1914 meant that money and resources to develop the Capital were in short supply.
By the time his contract was terminated in 1920, Griffin had managed to revise his plan, carry out some earthworks to mark the main avenues of his design and to plant a few hectares of trees beyond the city limits.
Acknowledgement of Country
Our work is on the land of the Ngunnawal People, Ngunnawal Country. We pay our respects to their Elders – past, present and emerging.