Daily Archives: December 11, 2016

‘Marion Mahony Reconsidered’ by David Van Zanten (ed.)


2011, 147 P & notes.

I come to this book feeling as if I have entered a room at a party where everyone knows everyone else. The so-called Prairie School, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Griffins are well-furrowed academic fields, quite out of my own area.  My own knowledge of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin is limited to awareness of their houses and landscaping in the Heidelberg and Ivanhoe area, and what I have gleaned from Heidelberg Historical Society’s exhibition Against the Forces that we mounted three years back.  In photographs she looks stern and formidable, and I’m aware of an underlying Unitarian/Anthroposophical influence in her work. What I hadn’t realized is that there is an ongoing controversy over her status as an architect.  Was she a merely helpmate to her husband Walter Burley Griffin,  and architectural collaborator, or was she the hidden force behind him?

The four essays in this book are extended versions of six presentations delivered at a symposium conducted alongside an exhibition at the Block Museum ‘Marion Mahony Griffin: Drawing the Form of Nature’ in 2005. The other two presentations made at the symposium were published in the exhibition catalogue. It is significant, I think, that the book utilizes her maiden rather than married name, seeking to delineate her identity as woman, thinker, artist and representationist in her own right, and not just as an adjunct to the two other men with whom she is professionally associated: Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Burley Griffin. Continue reading