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Unit 3 - The Ideal City

Lesson plan
Activity - Walter Burley Griffin - Research Poster


The Australian Government declared the new capital of Australia would be the finest capital city in the world and an international competition for the design of the capital was announced. Over 130 architects and town planners from Australia, America and Europe submitted plans and, in May 1912, it was declared that Walter Burley Griffin, a Chicago architect, had won the competition. Griffin's design symbolised democracy and was designed to reflect the values of an emerging nation. It provided its citizens with an elegant, liveable city of parks, lakes, commemorative sites and monuments in a spectacular landscape setting.

Of his design Griffin would write:

I have planned a city not like any other city in the world.
I planned it not in a way that I expected any government authorities in the world would accept.
I have planned an ideal city - a city that meets my ideal of the city of the futur


Students research the achievements of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, by referring to their close association with Australia and its capital city. Research information is presented in a pictorial poster format.


  • follow instructions and successfully undertake a research project
  • brainstorm as a group
  • gain knowledge through individual research on Walter Burley Griffin and his wife and professional partner, Marion Mahony Griffin
  • gain knowledge through the individual research on the Griffins' connection with Canberra and the Australian landscape
  • gain knowledge through individual research on the history of Australia's National Capital
  • present research information in the form of a colourful poster
  • actively participate in an informal class presentation


Exhibit title - Walter Burley Griffin
Location - The Ideal City, section 5

Exhibit title - Walter Burley Griffin's Winning Plan
Location - The Ideal City, section 5

Exhibit title - Designing the City of Canberra (laser model)
Location - The Ideal City, section 5

Exhibit title - Building with Water
Location - The Ideal City, section 7

This activity recognises the important contribution that Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahony Griffin made through their visionary design for Canberra as Australia's National Capital.


  • student activity sheet
  • variety of craft materials


  1. Introduce the topic by setting the scene and referring to the photo of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin provided in this education kit.
  2. Help students to understand the need for a National Capital in Australia, or any other nation
    in the world.
  3. Brainstorm with students the role of a National Capital for Australians.
    Key discussion points include:
    • the location of the Seat of Government
    • the location of the National Parliament
    • the centre for national administration
    • the location for national institutions
    • the location for memorials and ceremonial events
    • a symbol of Australian unity and pride
  4. Hand out student activity sheet and discuss student objectives (refer to outcomes).
  5. Allow time for research and presentation. At the conclusion of the activity, have each student present his/her poster to the class.
  6. This activity can be adapted to engage small student groups in research and presentation skills.