Last days of once-in-a-century exhibition

Media release: Friday, 6 September 2013

Design 29: creating a capital, the once-in-a-century exhibition at the National Archives of Australia is closing this weekend.

Showing the original winning designs for the 1911 federal capital competition, as well as the rarely-seen runners up, it has drawn visitors from across the world. As part of the Canberra centenary celebrations, the National Archives pulled original and fragile designs out of the vault for the exhibition.

The original artworks have been a definite drawcard, but visitors have also been able to discover the stories, people and politics behind the process with an innovative use of customised iPads provided by the Archives.

They reveal alternative visions, close-up details and lesser-known stories about the designs and Canberra's creation. They also enabled visitors to see how the designs of the finalists differed, including Griffin's vision for a planting scheme to cover different hills with pink cherry blossom, red bottle brush and yellow broom.

The internationally acclaimed watercolour originals by Marion Mahony Griffin, who captured Walter Burley Griffin's vision of Canberra so perfectly, are among the most significant items in the National Archives collection. They are also very fragile, which is why they haven't been on show for 10 years.

Official finalists were Eliel Saarinen of Finland and Donat-Alfred Agache of France, whose entries are both on show. A design by the Australian trio of Walter Scott Griffiths, Robert Charles Coulter and Charles Caswell was purchased by the government to become an unofficial finalist and is also on view.

The final day of Design 29: creating a capital is this Sunday 8 September 2013 at the National Archives, Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes, ACT. More information on the exhibition can be seen at

High-res media images can be downloaded from

Curator Jane Macknight is available for interview.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e
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