A Vision Splendid

Media release: Thursday, 7 March 2013

The National Archives has republished a tribute to Marion Mahony Griffin's artistic skills, launching it on International Women's Day (8 March) in recognition of her contribution to the design of Canberra.

The new edition of A Vision Splendid: How the Griffins imagined Australia's capital includes a fully illustrated set of Marion's artworks for the Federal Capital Design Competition and has been republished to meet popular demand. The book was originally published in 2002 to accompany an exhibition of the works which formed part of Walter Burley Griffin's entry in the competition.

The revised edition tells the story of the Griffin partnership and expands on the content of the National Archives latest exhibition Design 29: creating a capital which features the original artworks. It also includes the designs of other finalists, many unseen for 100 years.

'The quality of Marion Mahony Griffin's panoramic visions, drawn on cloth and highlighted in gold leaf, has not diminished with age,' said David Fricker, Director-General of the National Archives. 'For a century, the Griffin plans and drawings have attracted the interest of art lovers, architects, town planners, landscape architects, historians and Griffin enthusiasts. They are among the most treasured items in the National Archives' collection and listed on UNESCO's Australian Memory of the World register.

'The book includes two essays: one by Griffin scholar Christopher Vernon that places the drawings in their artistic and cultural context; the other by National Archives conservator Ian Batterham on the history, restoration and preservation of the artworks. The Griffin watercolours are extremely fragile and therefore exhibited only on rare occasions. A Vision Splendid provides enthusiasts with greater access to these normally hidden treasures.'

Using only the materials provided to competition entrants – a contour map, a 3D model, a cyclorama of the site and instructions to competitors, the Griffins produced a visionary plan for the new capital, augmented by Marion's watercolour drawings. Today, though not entirely a reflection of the Griffin plan, Canberra stands as a pre-eminent example of a city designed to suit the landscape. A Vision Splendid: How the Griffins imagined Australia's capital is available at The Archives Store for $19.95 and through the e-shop http://eshop.naa.gov.au/

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au
  • Shaun Rohrlach (Director, Communications and Programs)
    t (02) 6212 3990 m 0434 664 621 e shaun.rohrlach@naa.gov.au
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