Walter Burley Griffin: In His Own Right




Narrator: This is the story of a man who designed houses and imagined cities. It is story of a draftsman, who emerged from the long shadow of his employer. It is the story of competing ideologies and professional jealousies.

Dustin Griffin: Wright has got a lot of credit for buildings that Griffin did. Wright did not mind taking credit for everything that he could get.

Narrator: And it is the story of love between two people who shared a dedication to stretching the boundaries of architecture. Walter Burley Griffin: In His Own Right, Tonight on PBS.

Funding VO: This program was made possible in part by a major grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting through the Central Educational Network and the Friends of WILL-TV.


Narrator: In 1914 two American Architects embarked on a journey to Australia. Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin - only three years married - set sail in pursuit of a dream.

James Weirick: In Australia, Walter and Marion Griffin are very well known, and known as really two of the most fascinating, dynamic and creative personalities to have ever lived in our continent.

Mark L Peisch: There was not really an intentional lack of respect, nor an intentional lack of knowledge about them. They had simply kind of been leeched out of American architectural history.

Narrator: At the age of thirty-seven, Walter Burley Griffin left his bustling Chicago office to oversee construction of the city he had designed - Australia's new capital - Canberra. Griffin success set him apart from his former employer Frank Lloyd Wright, and his mentor Louis Sullivan. Neither of them had ever designed an entire city! With his name in all the newspapers, and many projects in the works, Griffin was at the pinnacle of his American career.

Robert Hafeman: It makes you wonder that perhaps if Mr. Griffin hadn't felt the need or been talked into going to Australia - what might have happened?

Narrator: Griffin could never have realized that in less than five years his Chicago office would be dissolved and his name would drift into American obscurity.


Narrator: Walter Burley Griffin's plan for Canberra began in his hometown of Chicago. It was here that Griffin found himself part of a movement to create America's first original architectural style, which became known as the Prairie School. It was a movement founded by Louis Sullivan and made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright. But Walter Burley Griffin would be the first to carry it to other parts of the globe.

Paul Kruty: Griffin in a sense is part of the third generation, the last of three in the great triumvirate in American architects who each in their own distinct way tried to find an American architecture.

Narrator: In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire set the stage for the birth of this new movement by wiping the city clean. By the 1880's, the city had been reborn with steel-framed buildings over 30 stories tall. As these skyscrapers symbolized a new century, trolley cars and the elevated train carried Chicago into the modern age. The elevated train circling the downtown prompted a new term for the concentrated center, the loop. Within the loop a message rose up to the offices of the city's architects. It was a message that Chicago was looking to the future, not to the past. One man in Chicago seemed to embody the city's independent thinking, architect Louis Sullivan. Sullivan believed that American architecture was in crisis and the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, epitomized all that was wrong with his profession.

Paul Sprague: He had thought this doesn't make sense to take the forms of historic building that were developed for these indigenous cultures so long ago and somehow he felt spiritually reflected these cultures and transfer them to this new machine age, which was so different. That it was wrong to do that. That we had now to find new forms for our new age.

Narrator: Sullivan and the progressive architects within the loop called themselves "The 18". Their home base was the Steinway Hall Building. Together, they shared expenses, draftsmen and architectural philosophies. Among their members were Frank Lloyd Wright and Dwight Perkins. In 1899, Perkins hired a new draftsman for the group, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois. His name was Walter Burley Griffin.

Paul Kruty: This put him suddenly in with the most progressive architects working in America at the time. These were people who were directly influenced by the figure of Louis Sullivan who had been preaching for modern American architecture since the 1880's. And his life was changed forever by this fact of working for these people.

Narrator: Working at Steinway Hall, Griffin moved from board to board, working and listening to the discussions of his employers. Then on June 9, 1900, he attended a talk given by Sullivan called "The Young Man in Architecture". Sullivan challenged his audience to break from the past and find their own style. "If anyone tells you," he said, "that it is impossible with a lifetime to develop and perfect a complete individuality of expression, tell him that you know better and that you will prove it by your lives."

Paul Sprague: Sullivan said the way to do it is to go out and commune with nature. Can you imagine a guy with a blank sheet of paper communing with nature and developing a new style? This is spiritual. It is not material. But Sullivan felt that is how you did it.

Narrator: Sullivan's ideas seemed to make perfect sense to Griffin. Since childhood he had always felt at home in the natural world. It seemed logical to him that nature should be the source of inspiration and he vowed to follow Sullivan's call. In 1901, Griffin left Steinway Hall. It would be a move that allowed him to begin to implement Sullivan's ideas and one that would also permanently link his name to that of another great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.


Narrator: In 1898, Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built an architectural studio adjacent to his house in Oak Park Illinois. It was an unusual arrangement. But Wright believed an architect should be "in a environment that conspires to develop the best there is in him." Since Wright's clients were mostly wealthy suburbanites, the convenience of this office away from downtown Chicago was as asset. In 1901, Walter Burley Griffin took his place in the drafting room where artists and sculptors looked down from the second floor balcony. The atmosphere was similar to Steinway Hall, with it's shared ideas and heated discussion.

Narrator: In Wright's studio, Griffin gained experience working with clients and supervising building construction. Griffin also had a chance to expand on his talents as a landscape designer, an interest he'd held since childhood. Wright began to rely on Griffin not only as a landscape architect but also as an office manager.

H. Allen Brooks: Griffin was a very congenial, outgoing person and Wright liked to have a repartee with Griffin. He was one of the few people that he really could. It wasn't a matter of just saying, "This is how it will be, get that draftsman over there to draw it up". Wright was quite willing to discuss these things with Griffin; apparently, they had a very, very good relationship.

Narrator: Wright generously allowed his employees to take on outside work. Shortly after he joined Wright's staff, Griffin received his first freelance commission to design a house. It was to be the wedding present for the son of a Griffin family friend in Elmhurst, Illinois, William Emery. Within the design of the Emery House are traces of Griffin's emerging individual style.

Paul Kruty: There are elements in the work that we would recognize immediately as Griffin. The great gables on either end, the combining of stucco and stained boards, concrete and brick, the four corner piers that the house seems to rest on brick piers that rise, this kind of play of materials is more than Wright did. He was more simple in his use of materials.

Paul Sprague: He liked this kind of space that was different than Wright. Which was kind of vertically layered to some degree. So you go into the Emery House and there's a huge living room, almost two stories high! And you go around the corner and you go down the stairs and you are at the Dining room. And where's the dining room? At grade. So you walk out the doors and you're outside.

Narrator: Griffin's use of split-level construction was ground breaking at the turn of the century. It was not until the 1950's that American Architecture fully adopted the split-level house.

H. Allen Brooks: I think we see in the Emery House a fascinating design, I mean as a first major work by Walter burley Griffin of taking certain inspiration from what was in the air in the Midwest at that time and perhaps pointing to the future.

Narrator: By 1905, Wright and Griffin enjoyed a comfortable relationship; comfortable enough for Wright to borrow money from Griffin for a trip to Japan. In return, he placed Griffin in charge of the office during his absence.

Paul Kruty: Griffin managed the office more than Wright expected. In fact, he substituted some of his own designs and completed commissions. When Wright came back he was actually somewhat upset at the extent of liberties that Griffin had taken with some of his work. At the same time, he had no cash as he often did, and he proposed to pay Griffin in Japanese prints for five months salary. Griffin didn't want the prints but Wright eventually foisted them on him and considered the matter closed.

Narrator: The Japanese prints became the final straw for Griffin. Realizing that he would never be promoted to full partner, and tired of handing off his work, Griffin resigned.

Paul Kruty: Wright considered Griffin a partner to the extent the two of them worked on a building that ultimately was a Frank Lloyd Wright building. And that Wright thought of this as a matter of course and this is the way he designed through the rest of his career. To FLW everyone was a pencil in his hand.

Narrator: By the spring of 1906, at the age of 29,Walter Burley Griffin returned to his old office space in Steinway Hall in downtown Chicago. But this time he entered the door an Independent Architect.


Narrator: Griffin began his independent practice with almost no commissions in hand. But his client base grew. For what Griffin lacked in actual experience, he made up for in personality.

Anne Watson: I think he was very much respected for his ability to get his views across without becoming necessarily agitated and aggressive.

Narrator: Griffin billed himself to clients as a total architect. He offered them an entire concept that included both building and landscape design. Throughout his career, Griffin's interest in the world surrounding his architecture influenced his designs.

James Weirick: Griffin as a landscape architect I think had a superb ability to sight a building and was very concerned about the relationship of the building to its sight and the inter-relationship between buildings.

Paul Sprague: I think he was the greater person as an architect, second as a planner and third as a landscape architect. And this doesn't mean that if he wasn't as good a landscape architect as some other landscape architect. It demeans him because we have to keep in mind that he was all three.

Narrator: Griffin's early work, such as the Frederick Carter House in Evanston, Illinois, carried Wright's influence. Like Wright, Griffin used over hanging eaves and a stucco finish. But Griffin left his signature in the windows. Instead of leaded glass, Griffin decorated them with heavy wooden mullions.

Paul Sprague: Griffin also had this peculiar kind of interest which has to do with involving the house with nature with an organic qualities, of pushing a room out, of the main body of the house, and surrounding it by a porch. And that occurs on that house. It's the dining room so you can open the doors and windows or step out on the porch and eat there. For all the organic nonsense that Wright hands out, this kind of thing never seems to interest him.

Narrator: The same year that Griffin designed the Carter house, He planned a home for his brother Ralph in Edwardsville, Illinois. As soon as it was constructed among the Victorian Houses on St. Louis Street, it became the talk of the town.

Dustin Griffin: You can't put up a thing like that in a small, country town in downstate Illinois and not get some comment and I knew early on that it was not like my friends' houses but I liked it.

Paul Kruty: The Ralph Griffin House shows Griffin's own personality, his own personal interpretation of this new kind of architecture. For one thing it's a perfectly symmetrical house, It's roofs end in upturned gables rather than the great hovering hip groove of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie houses

Rich Berry: The floor plan of this house is almost like a seashell, where you come in the front door you kind of work your way up and around, kind of almost in a like a cork screw pattern. It makes it very visually interesting as you go through the house. You can actually look through and see these tiers of woodwork that you pass through. And so I think he was giving Ralph something special.

Narrator: Griffin continued to develop his own architectural style. He fed his personal interest in modern technology by experimenting with new building materials, such as hollow tile and reinforced concrete. Griffin reflected the modern age in his designs by attaching a carport to house in 1909 ... an idea eventually became popular when it was used by Wright 25 years later. Another Griffin idea the Wright made famous was the L shaped floor plan. In April 1907, Frank Lloyd Wright published a design in The Ladies Home Journal, called A Fireproof house for $5000. The floor plan featured a living room and dining room that formed an L shape around a central fireplace.

Paul Kruty: It seems convincingly clear that this is a creation of Walter Burley Griffin and not Frank Lloyd Wright.

Narrator: Griffin had developed the L shaped plan while he was working for Wright. In Wright's designs for his wealthy clients he had broken up the boxy rooms that were common in Victorian houses to create a greater sense of space. Griffin took this concept and placed it into a square. It reduced Wright's use of space so that it could be easily and cheaply reproduced.

Mark Peisch: Griffin was interested not just in great projects. He was interested in working for, to use a hack-kneed phrase, the little man. Making it possible for him to have a decent domicile. Griffin's goal was realized when he designed 13 houses that were all a variation on the open plan for a development in what is now called Chicago's Ridge Historic District. Each one was constructed for around eighteen hundred dollars.

Mati Maldre: This is a city lot, a small lot and yet you can walk inside this home and feel like you are in a cathedral - beam ceilings and a natural texture and materials, the same type of materials that are seen outside are brought inside. To me, that's the genius of Walter Burley Griffin and for that matter, the prairie school.


Narrator: In 1909, while Walter Burley Griffin was just finding his own personal style of architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright felt he had run out of ideas. Leaving his wife, and children and behind, Wright went to Europe on business with the wife of one of his clients.

Larry Perkins: Frank Wright managed to make a mess of every personal relationship he ever had. A quote of my Dad said his buildings have the same rotten spot in them his character does.

Narrator: As he left for Europe, Wright scrambled to find someone to finish his outstanding commissions. He finally convinced an associate from Steinway Hall, Herman Von Holst to take the job. Yet, Von Holst quickly realized that he needed someone with a better understanding of Wright's design concepts to please the disconcerted clients. He promptly hired long-time Wright employee, Marion Mahony, to "ghost" design Wright's outstanding commissions.

H. Allen Brooks: Well, Marion was certainly a pioneer in the role of the female in architecture. She was the second female graduate for MIT. MIT was the oldest school of architecture in the United States.

Janice Pregliasco: She stood out in several ways. One way is that her cousin, Dwight Perkins, described her as the most bohemian person he had ever met. She was very dramatic, expressive. She had a mean wit and she dressed much differently than other women of her time.

Anne Watson: And she was unwilling to settle for second best, to become the housewife, the mother, the non-architect.

Narrator: In 1898 while working in Wright's studio Mahony sat for the first ever architectural certification exam and became the first woman to be a licensed architect. In a report about the twelve candidates who sat for the three-day exam it was noted that "one of the candidates was a Lady, while the others were all trained in architectural schools".

Narrator: Mahony's talents as an artist made her an invaluable employee to Wright. She had developed a drafting style, which took its influence from Japanese prints. She ravishingly drew Wright's buildings amid natural settings, sometimes giving the client a treetop view.

Janice Pregliasco: In fact the buildings look very, in line work are very spare and are kind of like an interlude in the midst of this abundant nature so architecture was to be set within nature. And was never to overpower it or overshadow it. The natural world was a much finer product than the product of architects.

Narrator: One of Mahony's first assignments in the offices of Von Holst was to complete three of Wright's commissions on a private street in Decatur, Illinois. Wright had left a plan for one of the houses to be built for Edward Irving, but two other homes needed to be designed. At first Von Holst attempted to keep the fact that Marion was designing a secret. He wanted the clients to believe they were getting the designs from Wright.

Anne Watson: And there's a very interesting reference in her memoirs, where she complains very subtly that she could have produced much better architectural designs if she had been allowed to actually meet with the clients.

Narrator: The last house built under Marion's direction in Decatur was for Adolph Mueller. Although it was based on Wright's style, the design also exemplified her artistic talents. The house and porch were capped with crisp gabled roofs and upturned eaves, and she reflected this triangular motif inside. She wrapped the home in a continuous pattern of leaded glass, and filled the living room's tent ceiling with stained glass.

Janice Pregliasco: She had these very long lean arms and she always used them in expressing herself when she was talking and her floor plans are like that. They spread out into wings and pinwheels. It's much more of a sculptural architectonic space. You're always moving up, down and through and everything is more three dimensional and sculptural and that's the biggest difference between her and a Wrightian space.

Narrator: On Mahony's recommendation, Von Holst hired Walter Burley Griffin to create a landscape design for the houses in Decatur, Soon Marion and Walter were working closely in the offices at Steinway Hall. As the Decatur project progressed, Marion who was five years older than Walter began to think of him more than on a professional level.

Anne Watson: They both had this great passion for nature and there absolute devotion to you know the kind of architecture that they felt was right for the early Twentieth century. Walter and Marion began escaping together on the weekends to explore the waterways of Illinois. They bought a canoe and christened her Allana. To Marion, Allana became a haven of respite from the workweek. And the trips became the wellspring of her growing admiration for her coworker. Walter and Marion were married on June 29, 1911 at a private ceremony in Indiana.

Janice Pregliasco: I know in social situations she was much more of a magnet, and much more outspoken and forward than Walter who kind of more receded into the background. It's funny to talk to both sides of the family because Marion's side of the family is going, "Why did she marry Walter? I mean he's kind of a milk toast of man." And, then you talk to the Griffin side of the family is, "Why did Walter, what did he see in her? She was so over the top."

Narrator: After their marriage, Marion joined Walters's staff as chief draftsman. She began to prove herself to be quite an asset to her husband. She used her pen to breathe new life into Walter's designs.

James Weirick: Marion could draw anything. So she could visualize anything that Walter suggested. And I think that as they began to work together it reached the point where Marion's mode of representation began to inform Walter's way of thinking to the point where they became the perfect creative partnership.

Narrator: Marion developed a new presentation style that combined an outside perspective of the building plus the interior plan. Marion would transfer the perspective to silk then paint it with watercolors mixed with glue.

Lawrence Perkins: They reveal her as an architect. They, all of them had design and plan to them. They were not spontaneous sketches.

Mark L Peisch: They are, of course, a tremendous change from a blueprint. A blueprint gives the skeletal and the nervous system and so forth of the building. But she gave the spirit of the building in all the rendering she did.

Narrator: For the rest of her American career, Marion decided to remain in the background assisting her husband. Her monogram obscured amidst the flora was the only credit she would claim. Despite her outspoken nature, her architectural license, and her recent taste of independence in Von Holst's office she was never to take a step toward independent practice again.

Anne Watson: I think it is to her great credit that she was willing to take second place. So that Walter could get on with. She thought of him as a genius. And so she thought her role of supporting him would enable this kind of genius to blossom.

Lawrence Perkins: She was very much in love with Walter all her life. She was desperately afraid that she would diminish his reputation. The fact of the matter is she was right, she would. She wasn't chasing fame. If she had, she would have found out the same as all the rest of us do, next week nobody can remember you.

Narrator: As the Griffin's began their professional lives together they were poised for great success. With Marion by his side Walter Burley Griffin was about to enter the most successful phase of his American career.


Narrator: Three hundred miles from the busy streets of Chicago, Walter Burley Griffin would have a chance to see one of his greatest housing developments become a reality.

Robert McCoy: Mason City was very rapidly expanding at the same time as the prairie school was coming into being. The entrepreneurs of Mason City saw the prairie school as something that paralleled their period of rapid growth.

Narrator: The development in Mason City, Iowa would be called Rock Crest-Rock Glen. Today it remains the largest collection of Prairie Style homes surrounding a natural setting. Frank Lloyd Wright was the first Prairie School architect to practice in Mason City. He was hired by the City National Bank to design a new bank building and a hotel downtown. Wright also learned of plans by three prominent businessmen for housing developments in Mason City. But in September 1909, plans to continue working with Wright abruptly ended, with the shocking news about Wright's departure for Europe.

Bob McCoy: Wright was in deep opprobrium as far as the people in town were concerned both for the morality of what he had done and the ethics of having run out on a contract.

Narrator: One of those contracts left hanging was for developer Joshua Melson. By 1911, Melson, who still did not have a house, decided to contact the architects handling Wright's outstanding commissions, Hermann Von Holst and Marion Mahony. When Marion learned of Melson's plan to build and entire development in Mason City, she suggested he speak to her new husband Walter. Within a week, Griffin visited Mason City. He talked the developers into building on a site they had previously overlooked, because it had been turned into a garbage dump. Griffin saw it could be a beautiful natural setting for a group of houses.

Robert McCoy: It was almost like a treaty that was carefully negotiated between various parties, the contract that determined how Rock Crest, Rock Glen was going to be developed because in Marion Mahony's words the wheeler-dealers of the town sign over their rights to Griffin's plan to his vision.

Narrator: Griffin's vision was to site all the houses on the Glen, along the perimeter in order to create the greatest amount of open land. True to his philosophies on democracy, he insisted the land along the creek was common ground to be enjoyed by all the homeowners. And taking inspiration from the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Griffin designed letting all the powers of nature serve him.

James Weirick: Well, one of the things Griffin always incorporated in his design was the sense of the cycle of nature. And it is that capacity to take the basis of life and give it a noble and inspirational dimension that really distinguishes Griffin's work. He would always use a site so that he would celebrate the passage of the sun through the day.

Narrator: The largest home that Griffin designed in Mason City was for development investor James Blythe.

Paul Kruty: Certainly this house makes you very aware of the seasons, and you don't see the ground when you are sitting down. When you are sitting down you are looking at the treetops. When you stand up you really are struck by the view.

Narrator: The most striking feature inside the Blythe house is the fireplace designed by Marion. It is decorated in interwoven Italian tile.

Robert McCoy: As the seasons change and the leaves are dropping and you see different scenes as you look out you are just really are rested by what is going on outside.

Narrator: Joshua Melson, the original visionary behind Rock Crest Rock Glenn, finally realized his dream of a house along the creek.

Paul Kruty: And so here at the Melson House is a building that is organically wedded to its site, as perhaps no other building had been in American Architecture before this.

Robert McCoy: Griffin's vision was that his house would be a vertical upward extension of the cliff, the junction of the two being almost indistinguishable. It was really a very remarkable use of site and to me was prophetic of Fallingwater, many years later, which was sited on a waterfall.

Narrator: Wright's design for Melson envisioned a linear home that allowed a good view of the creek. Griffin's design created a home that provided more than great views; it was a physical extension of its surroundings.

James Weirick: Where I think griffin differs from Wright is that the house itself ...suggests that the force of nature is something that can be lived with and can be endlessly explored.

Paul Sprague: I mean stand down there at the creek and you look at the living rock and you wonder where does the house start? It goes up and up and up and then it's gets bold and has these incredible pieces of masonry sticking out until you can't tell where the surface of the house is, you don't know where it is. And then he's got these incredible Keystones at the top. Now where have you ever seen a house like this?

Peggy Bang: I will never forget the very first week that we lived in this house. We were done with most of the major restoration however we didn't have window coverings up yet. And so in the bedroom I would wake up in the morning and see the treetops. I felt like I was living in a tree house. Our floor plan in the living room and dining room is just wonderful. I especially like the space that is the width of the fireplace. Because in some of the other Prairie School houses that I've been in there's not quite as generous amount for space around the fireplace into the dining room.

Narrator: From the street the Melson house appears to be only a garage. But this was one of the most important features to Joshua Melson.

Robert McCoy: He had the first electric car in the county so it's no wonder that his house is the only house of the prairie school houses that has a two car garage and each of the two stalls is a drive-through stall.

Narrator: "The Castle", as the Melson House was dubbed, caused quite a stir among the residents of the town. Melson even joked that Griffin would have to pay his electric bill since he felt the need to keep the construction site illuminated all night long to entertain on lookers. Griffin himself was so overjoyed with the finished product he scaled the thirty foot cliff side of the house in celebration.

Paul Sprague: He went beyond Wright. He developed his own manner, in this, in this rather aboriginal style, this thing that's back not in the historic past but prehistoric past.

Narrator: At the same time he was working on the plans for Mason City, Griffin received a commission to build a library in the small southern Illinois town of Anna.

Robert Hafeman: They just didn't have any idea what they were hiring in the mind of Griffin and in the building that would be produced. He didn't want to have the reverence of a church but he did want to have the feeling of importance to a building without being pompous. The solid feeling.

Paul Kruty: The Stinson Memorial Library is the most important non-residential building designed by Griffin in America. In fact it is the only public building of any size. Even so it's a small-scale public library in a small town in southern Illinois. Griffin gives it monumentality. The reinforced concrete building with two massive pylons around the entryway, great overhanging proud to take us into the building. And then great veneer of enormous almost megalithic boulders that cover three sides of it on its lowest part.

Robert Hafeman: I think that Griffin wanted to present the people's university. Not everyone went to higher education or went to school. This was meant to be a place for research and study.

Narrator: Griffin's plan included a reading room and a community meeting area in the lower level. There he designed recessed lighting that would not interfere with a performance on the community stage. Griffin supplemented the lighting on the main floor with a continuous band of windows. At the same time the commissions were under way in Mason City, Iowa and Anna, Illinois, Walter and Marion were about to take on the biggest challenge of their careers. On May 23, 1912 the Griffins received a telegram from Melbourne, Australia, announcing that Walter had won the commission to design that countries capital. The news came as Griffin was reaching the height of his American career. But the commission would not only pull him away from his most successful development and his first public building, it would pull him away from his Chicago office forever.


Narrator: Creating a capital city for a country he had never visited was an immense undertaking. But it was a task that Griffin could not resist.

James Weirick: I think there's been no American gift to another nation, so profound, so inspirational as the griffin's plan for Canberra. And it takes the principles formulated by Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright of an architecture that would speak directly to people, and makes it the fundamental principle of an entire capital.

Narrator: Griffin's award winning plan was only conceived just three months before the deadline. Even then it was only through Marion's insistence that Walter sat down at the drawing board.

Janice Pregliasco: Marion finally got fed up and said if you don't start this very minute. I won't lay a pencil too it Because five weeks isn't nearly enough time to get it done even if I am the swiftest drafter in town.

Narrator: Marion's drawings of the Canberra plans were almost as big as the city itself. They were eight feet wide and thirty feet long and unfolded like Japanese screens. They were so beautiful and impressive that the judges had miniature copies made so as to not be swayed by their presence.

Lawrence Perkins: I rightly or wrongly believe that she did indeed win the Canberra competition for him.

Narrator: Suddenly this young American Architect, who had only designed homes and a few suburban plans was to create a nations capital. Griffin was invited to visit the Canberra site in July of 1913.

James Weirick: People were absolutely excited by what he had to say both in terms of his vision for Canberra and his vision for a democratic architecture.

Narrator: Australian architects lobbied parliament to offer Griffin a three-year position, overseeing the construction of Canberra. Just as his future was being discussed in the Australian Parliament Griffin received a letter from his Alma Mater the University of Illinois. He had been offered a position as the head of the Department of Architecture.

Paul Kruty: No other major architect of the Prairie School of architecture was ever offered an academic positions, not Sullivan, not Wright, not their followers. So this was a great choice that Griffin had to make, and yet he made the choice to go to Australia, almost unhesitatingly.

Narrator: As word spread among Chicago's architects about Griffin's success, Frank Lloyd Wright was asked his opinion of his former employee. Wright described Griffin as "nothing but a draftsman".

Dustin Griffin: I think that part of it was Wright's own jealous, egomaniacal nature that he didn't want anybody doing things better than he did.

Paul Kruty: When Griffin won the international competition for the design of the capital of Australia, Canberra and was suddenly on the front page of the New York Times, while Wright had only been on the front page of the Chicago Tribune for having run off to Europe with Mrs. Cheney this also finalized the relationship, the termination of the relationship between the two of them, Wright began to turn on Griffin, after he heard the news of Walter and Marion marriage. He perceived the Griffins were working against him, and they had stolen his Mason City Commissions. He claimed that Griffin was simply stealing his ideas, or as Wright put it "sucking his eggs".

Mark Peisch: That's the tone I got from Frank Lloyd Wright, he said I gave Griffin all the training he ever received. There's an incredible statement.

Narrator: Marion Griffin, not being one to sit idle while her and her husband's reputations were being trounced criticized Wright's work as being heavy on the client's pocketbook. She called him a scene painter whose architecture could better described as clowning.

Janice Pregliasco: And she knew how much the aspects for the Prairie school she develop. And to have lay claim to everything and then anything they had done since his time and being unworthy really riled her.

Paul Sprague: Griffin never suggested to anyone that he was a better designer than Wright. What Wright did was suggest that Griffin was a terrible designer. And that's only because Wright would build up these animosities to other people for other reasons and then they could do no right, if you pardon my pun.

Narrator: Griffin paid little attention to Wright's remarks as he hurriedly made plans to move to Australia, He needed someone to supervise the final constructions at Rock Crest Rock Glen and his other outstanding commissions. Griffin tracked down a former co-worker and Wright protege, Francis Barry Byrne. Less than one week before his departure, Griffin introduced Barry Byrne to his clients as his new American partner. What Griffin did not realize was that Wright still held an amazing amount of influence over Byrne. When Byrne was deciding whether to take up Griffin's offer, he consulted with Wright who, of course responded unfavorably.

Paul Kruty: We have Byrne's response to Wright, justifying why he would do it and stating very clearly that he not going to become simply a pawn of Griffin.

Narrator: As Griffin sent plans from Australia, Byrne began substituting his own designs. Byrne wrote back to Griffin that all was well. It was years before Griffin realized what Byrne had done in his absence. In a letter to his friend William Purcell, Griffin confided that he disappointed by Byrne and at a loss as to how he re-establish himself "in the goodwill of the clients" that Byrne alienated. While his Chicago practice slipped from his grasp, Griffin's experience in Australia was proving to be no less frustrating.

Paul Sprague: He went there because he thought they didn't have any building traditions. They didn't have any architectural style and had no ties to anything. It was a democratic country, people could think for themselves. So he went there expecting, "Hey this is great! We are going to build modern buildings." He went there and he found that it was little England, the biggest bureaucracy in the world.

James Weirick: Within the people in commonwealth bureaucracy, who had conceived the plan of the city, they really wanted to build it themselves. And they didn't want Griffin around. So they did actually conspire against him.

Narrator: By 1920, Griffin's constant battles with politicians caused him to be removed from the Canberra project. The Griffins had now lived and practiced in Australia for seven years. Instead of attempting to re-establish himself in Chicago, Griffin decided to remain an Australian architect.

Paul Sprague: The unfortunate part, in retrospect, is that he wasted so much time in Canberra. So In a way his idealism failed him.

Narrator: For the next fifteen years the Griffin's pursued several Australian design projects including an idyllic suburb on a branch of Sydney's famous harbor. But again they battled local officials over their non-traditional building plans and very few houses were built. Construction trickled along at the Canberra site. Eventually, most of the streets were laid out to Griffin's plan. But In 1927, when Canberra's new houses of Parliament were opened, Walter Burley Griffin was not even among the invited guests. The worldwide depression of the 1930's brought the Griffin's practice to a standstill. Through a connection of friends living in India, Walter received a commission to build a library there, at Lucknow University. In 1935 Griffin traveled to India, where he spent the nest 15 months enjoying a renaissance of his career. The next time that Americans heard any news of Walter Burley Griffin it was the announcement of his death. In 1937 Griffin died of peritonitis brought on by a ruptured gall bladder, in Lucknow, India.

Paul Kruty: He was barely 60 years old. When Frank Lloyd Wright was 60 he had a full 30 years of his career. Most of the buildings that Wright is famous for were not designed at that point. There would be no Falling Water if Wright had died when Griffin died. There would be no Guggenheim Museum. And so in a final sense his career is tragically cut short, in pales in comparison to that of his great rival Frank Lloyd Wright.


Narrator: After Walter's death, Marion sailed to America to visit her family. She intended to return to Australia, but the outbreak of World War two prevented a trip to the south pacific. Forced to stay in the United States, Marion was further frustrated to read about the accomplishments of Frank Lloyd Wright. Although they had once been his co-worker and friend, she would never speak to Wright again.

Dustin Griffin: I met Wright once, only once. My father and I had gone to a lecture, a talk that he had given in St. Louis. For some reason he had been here and talked to some group and so father took me and afterwards we went up to speak to Wright and father said, "I'm Ralph Griffin, Walter's brother." And, Wright said, "Poor Walter." That was the only comment he made.

Narrator: Marian lived out the rest of her life in the family house on Estes Avenue in Chicago. She made it her mission to try and keep her husband's name alive. She compiled her memories in an 8-volume manuscript that she entitled the Magic of America. Today it still remains unpublished. Marion Mahony Griffin died in Chicago in 1961. Her ashes remained in an unmarked grave in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery, before they were re-interred there in 1997. While Walter lies two continents away in India, Marion rests alongside some of America's greatest architects. In death she has finally carved a place for her and her husband in architectural history.

Mark Peisch: I think their place in America's history and architectural development is one of two people who believed in what they were doing they truly believed they were making a contribution when they put pencil to drafting paper.

Paul Sprague: There hasn't been time for people to really appreciate what Griffin did and how impressive his work is and how he relates to Wright everybody is in his shadow, and, Griffin has to be pulled out from under that shadow.

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