Canberra’s ‘other Walter’ also had a vision for the ACT

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Competing Design for Canberra by Walter Scott Griffiths

IT’S 55 years today since Lake Burley Griffin was formally inaugurated on October 17, 1964, and the National Film and Sound Archive is marking the occasion with the publication of 24 rare glass slides, recently acquired by the archive, featuring a rejected alternative design by Walter Scott Griffiths for the national capital.

The 24 glass slides show detailed plans of an alternative design for the city of Canberra created by Walter Scott Griffiths, who entered the Federal Capital City Design Competition in 1911, in a joint entry with Robert Charles Coulter and Charles Henry Caswell.

Walter Griffiths’ slide box

While the judging panel eventually accepted Walter Burley Griffin’s proposal, the Griffiths, Coulter and Caswell design was awarded fourth place. The government purchased this design and adopted their plan for drainage and sewerage, which required less excavation and infill than Walter Burley Griffin’s plan.

Griffiths maintained his interest in the design and construction of Canberra, joining the debate about Burley Griffin’s plan for Canberra, giving illustrated lectures on the matter between 1916 and 1922, which included the set of 24 glass lantern slides now preserved at the NFSA.

The glass slides can be viewed at where the NFSA’s Canberra Time Capsule, which includes a film chronicling the lake’s design and construction until its inauguration by Sir Robert Menzies may also be viewed.


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Helen Musa
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