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Major reform to NSW planning laws – heritage under threat

The NSW Government has a proposed new planning policy related to housing supply on public exhibition with comments closing this Friday 23 February 2024.

The Society strongly objects to the proposed new housing policy.

Many groups and entities around NSW, including local councils, the Better Planning Network and the National Trust have grave concerns about the proposed planning policy.

The Walter Burley Griffin Society has written to the NSW Government expressing its strong objection to the proposed urban renewal policy Submission WBG Society planning reform February 2024.

The proposed new policy, in areas zoned residential R2 Low Density Residential or R3 Medium Density Residential within 800 metres of local centres and/or train stations, will override Council controls and their Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) and Development Control Plans (DCPs) including protection in heritage conservation areas.

Most heritage conservation areas in Sydney are zoned R2 Low Residential and most are near local centres or transport hubs. Under this proposed policy, dual occupancies, terrace houses and manor houses in conservation areas will be considered complying development and won’t be reviewed by Councils.

It is fortunate that the Griffin Conservation Area at Castlecrag, being on a Middle Harbour peninsula, is zoned C4 Environmental Living (not R2) and is not directly threatened by the proposed policy. However nearly all other conservation areas are zoned R2 and so are threatened.

The Society acknowledges that the NSW Government proposed changes to the NSW planning system are in response to the housing crisis in Sydney but this proposed housing policy is too simplistic, not sufficiently strategic and would be irreparably damaging to heritage. Read the NSW Government’s document here: Note the appendix gives a summary of change.

The Society encourages you to Have Your Say here:

Please be sure to scroll down to highlight the button indicating support or that you object to it. Below that, if you have time, there is a text box for writing a short submission, which needs to be written in your own words to avoid your submission being lumped together with submissions of the same words.


The Society is indebted to planner and Griffin Society committee member
Tatjana Djuric-Simovic

World Architecture Day, 2 October 2023

To celebrate World Architecture Day 2023 we are delighted to share the research of Dr Rani Massey that highlights the work of the Griffins in Lucknow, India. This research features the Bhatia House, which is perhaps one of the last Griffin buildings that remain in Lucknow. The house was designed by Walter Burley Griffin in 1936, and completed by his wife Marion Mahony in 1937, following Walter’s untimely death in India.

Dr Massey describes the Bhatia House as “a horizontally modern structure, reminiscent of the Prairie influence.” From her visit to the house in April 2023, she observed: the geometric pattern, inspired by nature, common to the gatepost and building facade; art deco style inlays in the original front verandah polished concrete flooring; and distinctive geometric Griffin designed doors and windows. Other features include thick brick walls with small exterior openings to shut out the intense summer heat, inventive concrete roofing and concealed wiring – a new concept. Read the full article in the NewsUpdate No.79_WBGS_August 2023 pages 3–6.

Called ‘Shanti Sadan’ (peaceful abode) by the Bhatia family it is much loved and cherished by the second and third generations of the Bhatia family.

In 2019 the Bhatia House received the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) award in the private home category.

Bhatia House, 2023. Photograph Vijay Massey 

Further reading

NewsUpdate No.79_WBGS_August 2023 with Bhatia family recollections and Dr Massey’s article about the Bhatia House pages 3–6 

Two American Architects in India: Walter B. Griffin and Marion M. Griffin 1935–37, by Paul Kruty and Paul E. Sprague, Urbana, School of Architecture, University of Illinois, 1997. The book is a comprehensive examination of the brief but productive period during which the Griffins worked in northern India, and can be purchased at

Lippincott House in Melbourne for sale

The Lippincott House is built on one of 120 lots in Glenard Estate designed by Walter Burley Griffin at Heidelberg, Victoria in 1916. The suburban subdivision has curvilinear roads and communal parklands at the rear of the allotments that preserved all the mature eucalypts on the estate. 

The Lippincott House was designed by Walter Burley Griffin, Marion Mahony Griffin and Roy Lippincott (architect and brother-in-law of WB Griffin) in 1917 in the Glenard Estate, Heidelberg. It was designed for Walter Griffin’s sister Genevieve and her husband Roy Lippincott and has many wonderful features including splayed brick lower walls with patterned brick column-like walls and a magnificent and unique living room fireplace.

The Lippincotts lived there until 1922 when they moved to New Zealand after winning the design competition for the Arts building at Auckland University.

Since 1939 the Lippincott House has been owned by three generations of the one family who now are wanting to find new custodians who will respect and care for the property as they have done for over 80 years. 

For information about the house sale contact Brad Pearce of Miles Real Estate, Ivanhoe

Further information: Lippincott House_Murray Griffin reminisces

Lippincott House living room with its striking fireplace. Photograph: Impress Photography 2023

Restoration Australia: the Duncan House

The first episode of the 2023 season of “Restoration Australia” on ABC TV featured the Duncan House and screened on 16 July 2023.

Designed by the Griffins and built in 1934 at Castlecrag, this “iconic” house has been sensitively restored and the large addition built in the 1990s has been transformed to be more sympathetic to the original Griffin house.

Presenter Professor Anthony Burke describes the house’s history and recent architectural restoration, and landscape architect James Smallson explains the Griffins’ design of this model suburb on a walk through the reserves and walkways.

Stream on the ABC’s iView

You can also listen to ‘Restoring Australia’s architectural treasures’ with the ABC listen app

Professor Anthony Burke with the owners of the Duncan House

MMG Lecture 2022 – Canberra and Sydney

Guest speaker Emily Catt, exhibition curator at the National Archives of Australia (NAA) will give a talk titled Well and wiry: the life and work of Marion Mahony Griffin.

Emily Catt curated the exhibition Marion: the other Griffin at the NAA in February to May 2022. In her talk she will explore some of the stories she was able to tell in the exhibition and some she couldn’t.  In addition she will be talking about bringing Marion’s story to life in an exhibition format.  “Well and wiry” was a description Marion used to describe herself in her grand memoir “The Magic of America” (circa 1942).

The lecture will be held in both Canberra and Sydney with Emily kindly giving the talk in both cities.

DateSunday 20 November 2022
Time: 2.30pm
Venue: Marion Mahony Griffin Hall, Glenaeon Infants School, 121 Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag.
Bookings essential
General admission      $20
Members                     $15
Students / Concession  $5


DateSaturday 26 November 2022.
Time: 3.00pm
Venue: National Archives of Australia function room, Kings Avenue, Parkes.
Bookings essential
General admission      $20
Members                     $15
Students / Concession  $5

We encourage audience members to wear masks.

Marion Mahony Griffin (1871–1961)
photograph courtesy Art Institute of Chicago

Canberra and the National Heritage List

Canberra has earned consistent international acclaim as a planned city. The Griffin Plan was described as ‘one of the treasures not only of Australia but of the entire urban world’ in 1992 by Professor John Reps. Marion Mahony Griffin’s twelve design drawings are included on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Program, equivalent to the World Heritage Register.

Since the early 1990s there have been many who have advocated Canberra’s nomination for World Heritage status including many distinguished heritage and Canberra planning advocates. It has also been strongly argued that Heritage Listing and values need not impede Canberra’s development, but on the contrary enhance it.

So it is of great concern that in May 2022, on the eve of the Election caretaker period when it could and should have been left to the new Government, then federal Environment and Heritage Minister Sussan Ley, rejected the nomination of Canberra to the National Heritage List, despite endorsement by the Australian Heritage Council.

For Canberra, one of few cities of international planning stature globally this is extraordinarily disappointing. The Griffins envisioned ‘a city not like any other city in the world,

The designs reflect the Griffins’ understanding that the built environment should interact with the surrounding natural environment. Griffin envisaged urban density, people movement and public transport in a city of horizontal forms, of about 5 storeys, which preserve a sympathetic scale relationship with the natural landscape, its mountains and the vistas of them.

The broad support for the national heritage listing of Canberra hasn’t been reflected in government decisions since the start of the ACT self-government in 1989.

Back in 2007, specialist research, professional initiatives and public seminars, and a Legislative Assembly Committee report, produced a strong nomination of Canberra and the ACT as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, but unfortunately this was subsequently dropped by the ACT Government.

Local organisations seeking city-wide listing have faced continual opposition. The ACT Government and Chief Ministers have persistently opposed National Heritage Listing of Canberra.  The new Greens Heritage Minister Rebecca Vassarotti publicly expressed reservations about a listing just prior to Minister Lee’s announcement in April 2022.  The ACT Legislative Assembly in March 2020 rejected by a vote of 24 (Labor and Liberals) to 2 (The Greens) a motion to work with the Commonwealth for National Heritage Listing.

The Griffin Society is hopeful that a future government might rectify this and recognise the advantages that heritage listing would bring to Canberra as regards  status, symbolism, standards, aspirations, tourism, and especially to the conservation and realisation of the Griffins’ original Plan.

In 2012, the Griffin Society’s Canberra Chapter held a Marion Mahony Griffin Lecture titled Celebrating the Griffins’ contribution to Canberra as a modern planned capital city, given by the president of the ICOMOS Twentieth Century International Scientific Committee, heritage consultant Sheridan Burke, who described Canberra as “a showcase of cutting-edge twentieth-century town planning ideas” and undoubtedly deserving of National Heritage listing. She went on to explain that “Canberra is now an extraordinary cultural landscape of Twentieth Century Heritage significance” and extrapolated the city’s worthiness for not just national but World Heritage listing.

To ensure the amenity and beauty of Canberra is retained for future generations, it should not be eroded away by poor decision-making. Untrammelled unsympathetic development should not be permitted nor encouraged. The national government, the National Capital Authority and the ACT government need to respect and care for this unique inheritance of the Australian people and Canberra residents and allow only sympathetic development to maintain the Griffins’ vision and maximise Canberra’s potential.

Canberra – the Griffin vision in the 21st century

Canberra City News: ACT heritage minister fails to defend heritage, 15 June 2022

Detail from Federal Capital Competition City and Environs plan.  Delineator: Marion Mahony Griffin, 1912. Drawing in ink, watercolour, gouache and gold oil paint on linen. From the Collection of National Archives of Australia: A710,38

Canberra's foundation stone laid on 21 June 1920

This impressive casket and mallet were designed by Walter Burley Griffin for presentation to HRH the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone of Canberra on 21 June 1920. Although Griffin’s role as Federal Capital Director was terminated on 31 December 1920, the casket and mallet serve as a reminder of his association with the development of Canberra, a record of his achievements as a designer and as an indication of his knowledge and regard for Australian flora, an interest he shared with his wife Marion.

Both the mallet and casket are made entirely of Australian timbers. The mallet is of blackwood carved with a design of Banksia integrifolia and the casket of ‘pink myrtle beech’ (now Nothofagus cunninghamii) with the base and lid of blackbean. The six panels on the sides of the casket represent the states and each is veneered with 21 thin strips of different timbers indigenous to each state. These are in turn decorated with gold, seven-pointed star studs – seven on each state panel. The central panel to the front of the casket is carved with the Australian coat of arms.

Following his visit to Australia the Prince of Wales returned to London with the casket and mallet. Many years later it was discovered in a cupboard at St James’s Palace and was presented to the Australian government in 1949. They are now held in the Parliament House Art Collection.

Text: Summarised from “Walter Burley Griffin’s ‘Other’ Canberra Legacy” by Anne Watson published in Australiana November 1997, Vol 19 No.4 pages 99–102,112 (see full article here).     18 June 2022

Image: Walter Burley Griffin (1871–1937), mallet and coat of arms maker N. Redding, casket manufacturer H. Goldman Manufacturing Co. Mallet and casket used by Prince of Wales when laying foundation stone on Capital Hill in 1920, circa 1920, Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection, Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra, ACT

Sculpture for Marion Mahony Griffin, architect, environmentalist and visionary

The Walter Burley Griffin Society is pleased to announce that tax deductible donations can now be made towards the sculpture to honour Marion Mahony Griffin (1871 – 2021).
Following the success of our first round of fund raising and our open house event on 2 May 2021 we are now launching our second round of fund raising to achieve the financial target for the sculpture.

For round one we offered rewards but now for round two we can offer tax deductibility.

To make a tax deductible donation go to
then click on “Visual Arts & Craft” or Architecture & Design
then scroll down to
“A sculpture for Marion Mahony Griffin, architect, environmentalist and visionary”

To mark the 150th anniversary of Marion’s birth and the centenary of the creation of Castlecrag, the Society commissioned Sandra Pitkin, sculptor/installation artist to produce a contemporary dynamic on-site sculpture to honour Marion, her visionary approach to art, design and architecture and her ambition to forge a better world through cultural, social and environmental advocacy.

Some information about the artist:
Sandra Pitkin graduated with a BVA (hons) in sculpture and installation at Sydney College of the Arts. She exhibited widely with major works selected for Sculpture by the Sea with two awards for the Site Specificity and recently received an Australia Council for the Arts award for New and Innovative Work She has fulfilled numerous commissions and her work has been selected for many outdoor exhibitions including: The Woollahra Art Prize, North Sydney Art Prize, Swell Sculpture Festival, Harbour Sculpture 2017, Willoughby Sculpture Prize, Sculpture at Macquarie University Gallery.

Sandra’s work is inspired by her interest in nature, science and the reciprocal connections between humanity and the living world.  The sculpture’s design embraces and is representative of the prismatic geometry of Marion’s masterful design work and the organic fluid lines of her beautiful illustrations.

Willoughby City Council is planning a new community pocket park at the Castlecrag shopping village. The Society wants to raise enough funds to make the contemporary sculpture designed by Sandra Pitkin a reality and have it located in the park that we hope will be called Marion’s Park.

The sculpture will have an exciting presence and make an important contribution to the park’s place making, and will redress the current imbalance of having two sculptures in Castlecrag to honour Walter Burley Griffin and none to honour Marion.

The sculpture, will create a greater awareness and appreciation of Marion Mahony Griffin, her vision and commitment to art, design, architecture, the community, the environment and the Australian landscape.

Donations can be made anytime from now until early July 2021 and donors will receive a tax-deductible receipt from the Australian Cultural Fund (ACF) which was established by the Australian Government in 2003 as a fundraising platform to encourage donations to the arts.

Please donate now

Concept elements of the sculpture, and Sandra Pitkin at work on a previous sculpture

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