Design 29: creating a capital

Design 29: creating a capital offered a once in a century opportunity to view up close the original designs of the 1911 Federal Capital City Design Competition finalists. On display were the internationally acclaimed designs by Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin, as well as plans by Eliel Saarinen, Donat-Alfred Agache and the Australians Griffiths, Coulter and Caswell.

The Exhibition utilised a specially developed free iPad application to further explore the winning entries. Through augmented reality technology – involving a range of films, sound, photographs and documents – visitors could immerse themselves in the history of Canberra's creation.

The design competition

On 12 March 1913 – 100 years ago – the laying of the foundation stone of the commencement column marked the formal beginning of Canberra as a city. Two years earlier, the federal government had announced plans to hold an international design competition for this new capital city.

In May 1912, entrant No. 29 Walter Burley Griffin won the design competition. Second and third place were awarded to entrants No. 18 Eliel Saarinen and No. 4 Donat-Alfred Agache. A minority vote in favour of entrant No. 10 – Walter Scott Griffiths, Robert Charles Coulter and Charles Caswell – effectively awarded them fourth place. The finalists' entries are now held by the National Archives.

Explore this website for a taste of the stunning designs on display and the intriguing archival documents revealing the people, politics and controversy surrounding the creation of the national capital.

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    Walter Burley Griffin | No. 29
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    Eliel Saarinen | No. 19
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    Donat-Alfred Agache | No. 4
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    Griffiths, Coulter and Caswell | No. 10
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    The archive

A Centenary of Canberra project, proudly supported by the ACT Government and the Australian Government


Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019