Monash University

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Reason: Under embargo until August 2018. After this date a copy can be supplied under Section 51 (2) of the Australian Copyright Act 1968 by submitting a document delivery request through your library

Walter Burley Griffin—philosophy and design themes: correspondences to early modern German aesthetic theory, art and architecture

posted on 2017-08-22, 04:50 authored by Danielle Elizabeth Coronel
This thesis concerns the philosophy and designs of Walter Burley Griffin, a Chicago architect who practised in Australia from 1914 to 1935. It seeks to address an omission in the literature on Griffin regarding consideration of Modernist correspondences in his design philosophy and works pointing to possible influence, which has been overlooked in the existing literature on Griffin’s aesthetic philosophy and designs.
To approach the topic, the thesis firstly establishes a theoretical foundation in recognising two particular themes in Griffin’s architectural philosophy: his ideas on the architect’s inspiration derived from nature; and his purpose for architecture in modern society. The thesis considers parallels to early Modernist aesthetic theory and designs, focusing on German manifestations as early pioneers of Modernism. To establish points of comparison to early Modernism, key contributions from the aesthetic theorist Wilhelm Worringer, the philosopher Rudolf Steiner and the artist Wassily Kandinsky are considered, among others.
The thesis then examines a selection of Griffin’s designs in detail. This discussion is divided into two parts. Part 1 focuses on two particular designs of Griffin’s: Newman College and the Capitol Theatre, and examines the ideas expressed therein. Regarding Newman College, it considers Modernist parallels in the expression of Gothic references, Griffin’s two essential design principles of spaciousness and unity, and his intention to practise social influence through design. Regarding the Capitol Theatre, the thesis considers correspondences to early Modernist theatre design and performance. Part 2 considers Griffin’s crystalline form language as a theme evident in works throughout his Australian career and draws parallels to the crystalline form language of early Modernist designs. The thesis evaluates Griffin’s architecture and ideas in the context of early Modernist ideas and related designs, and suggests that a recognisable affinity is revealed in his engagement with similar ideas and aesthetic goals.


Principal supervisor

Christiane Weller

Additional supervisor 1

Franz-Josef Deiters

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Arts

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