So I have been in Canberra for almost four weeks now and whilst I am still getting used to the slower speed of life in the nation’s capital something unexpected in the world of architecture has grabbed my attention. It wasn’t a visit to the National Portrait Gallery or the National Gallery of Australia or even the still controversial National Museum of Australia but the actions of a small group of architects and designers called canberra lab.
It was only by chance that I stumbled upon canberra lab whilst browsing The Canberra Times during my lunch break and discovered that they were doing some work in a suburb in a near to where I work so I hastily abandoned the sandwich I was eating and decided to go take a look. The work in question is called “Dear Marion” and it is probably best left to those undertaking the project to actually describe it:
“. . . a collaboration between Canberra Lab and artist Kathryn Scott, brings Walter Burley Griffin back to Canberra in a series of ‘Dear Marion’ installations throughout the city.
As a key figure in Canberra’s development, Walter’s point of view is now more relevant than ever. Dear Marion will engage the city and its inhabitants directly. Walter will appear throughout the city, sometimes offering critique, sometimes offering solutions. Passersby are encouraged to interact with Walter by reading the love letters he holds in his hand, addressed to his dear Marion.
On returning to Canberra, Walter finds himself alone amidst a strangely foreign landscape, his thoughts turning to the love of his life and co-author, his dear Marion. As Walter slowly rediscovers the nation’s capital in its current state, he comes to reinterpret and challenge the nature of his ‘the ideal city’ and he will capture his thoughts in a series of love letters which he holds in his hand.”
The basic premise of the series of installations and “graffiti” pieces that have appeared around Canberra is to work towards reviving the vision of Walter Burley Griffin, who coincidentally happens to one of my favourite architects and the Capitol Theatre in Melbourne one of my favourite buildings. When I first visited the project it was only half completed but you could get a sense of what they were trying to achieve. I even loved they had a beautifully hand drawn sketch on the wall showing what the end product might look like.
Seeing as there isn’t much to do in Canberra on the weekends I decided to have another look on Saturday to see how the work had progressed. I was also fortunate to meet two of the members of canberra lab and after they finished work for the day managed to have a brief chat about the architecture scene in Canberra – particularly from a young architect’s point of view. The work done by canberra lab is very interesting and during my time here in Canberra, how long or short that may be, I hope I may be able to contribute in some way or if not I’ll just continue to post pictures of their work.