Collective memory

Feminist Memorial (For Marion Mahony) | 1975

Mount Ainslie, Canberra, Australia

This memorial was conceived as an anti-monument – not to exalt an individual but focusing the visitor’s attention on the design of the city of Canberra and thereby commemorate its creators, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony. Griffin and Mahony had met at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park office, where she contributed to Wright’s international reputation through her renderings for the influential Wasmuth Portfolio. In 1911 Mahony and Griffin, by then married and partners, jointly won the competition to design the new capital of Australia. However she did not receive public recognition for her work during her lifetime, remaining in the shadow of the male architects she worked with. When a competition was held for a memorial atop Mt. Ainslie, overlooking Canberra, to honor Griffin, the organizers entirely neglected Mahony. In contrast, this Feminist Memorial would be an observatory whose spatial sequence and alignments with the major urban axes below would render the city’s structure explicit, revealing it as the true monument. Mahony’s absence from the memorial would be made “present” through elements like water cascading the two levels of a circular pool; windows; flesh-colored marble; and an excavated room, which conventionally suggest both a “house” (woman as social being) and a “cave” (woman’s body.)