Walter Burley Griffin

Commonwealth of Australia. Report from the Senate Select Committee Appointed to Inquire and Report upon the Development of Canberra September, 1955. Appendix B, 93-102, "Copy of Federal Capital Design No. 29 by W. B. Griffin. Original Report."

As a young professional in Chicago Walter Burley Griffin (1944-1947) exhibited architectural interests that transcended the design of individual buildings. His early if somewhat rudimentary training in what would only later be called landscape architecture at the University of Illinois led him to think of the site and its treatment as of equal importance to the buildings upon it.

That this avid interest in planning began before his college days is supported by the draft of an undergraduate thesis on Griffin by Nancy Price, written at the University of Sydney School of Architecture in 1933. This is virtually the only document from Griffin himself on his early concern for urban planning and design. Griffin read, annotated, and corrected the thesis draft, and the following passage can be regarded as a statement from him on the subject as he recalled events in his life four decades earlier. Words in square brackets are those Griffin added or substituted.

"In 1892, he worked out, also in the fly­leaf of his school book, a scheme of town planning, which was afterwards incorporated in the plan of Canberra. This first plan was [to find a way to accord] dignified positions to all buildings, suitable to their uses, and with economical rectangular building plots and terminal vistas in substitution for the indefinite sprawling character of grid­iron planning.... In the spring of 1897, [when in the second year of his Architectural Course at the University of Illinois] he submitted a theme on the possibilities of Town Planning [and made an] investigation of what had been published on the matter, and was astounded to find there were no books on the subject of any import, except in German, references to which he was able to obtain in French publications; whereas in the English language were only reports of several lectures, most of them having references to [the] remarks of [a certain General] Haupt. Wren's plan for the reconstruction of London, came to his attention at this time [in confirmation of his own first steps]. The plan of Washington he had long been familiar with".

Writing in 1935 or thereabouts, Griffin recalled that "in 1897 after 5 years experimenting in the design of cities and formulating certain principles, therefrom, I searched the libraries of my University and the 3 metropolitan libraries in Illinois for comparisons and found only some German contributions of which I had to read the English and French periodical abstracts."

Following his graduation in 1899 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture, Griffin found work in Chicago in the office of Dwight Perkins. A graduate of MIT, Perkins worked for Burnham and Root before establishing his own office, first in the Schiller building where Frank Lloyd Wright also had an office, and after 1896 in the Steinway Building which Perkins had designed. Many other architects had offices and studios in the Steinway Building, and an important part of Griffin's education came from his association with the many architects he met there. Although Wright also maintained an office in the Steinway Building, he did most of his work at his studio in Oak Park, and in 1902 Griffin began to work for Wright there, returning to the Steinway Building in 1906 when he began to practice for himself.

It was during his several years with Wright at Oak Park that Griffin found the opportunity to design gardens for a number of Wright's residential projects. Griffin also served as Wright's secretary­office manager, writing to clients on behalf of Wright in a clear and direct prose style that is quite at variance with the several murky passages in his explanation of the plan of Canberra that he submitted in the competition of 1911­12. Under his rather flexible terms of employment, Griffin also undertook a few commissions on his own. And, it was also while working for Wright that Griffin met Dwight Perkins's cousin, Marion Mahoney, an architectural graduate of MIT and the woman he would marry in 1911. In his own practice after 1906 his experience in designing small subdivisions and in campus planning demonstrated his ability to move even beyond the issues involved in the integrated design of a structure and its immediate surroundings. This began with a very early opportunity, apparently in 1900 when he was asked to provide landscape planting diagrams and lay out a few walks for the campus of the Eastern Illinois State Normal School in Charleston, Illinois.

Six years later he began a more important commission: the design of a 60­acre site at De Kalb, Illinois for the buildings and grounds of the Northern Illinois State Normal School. At Mason City, Iowa, in 1910 Griffin designed a subdivision of twenty houses for a rough and difficult site of sixteen acres only three blocks from the center of town. One feature of the project, although never realized, was a small lake to be created by damming the creek that flowed through the site of Rock Glen, the name given to the development. Despite his interest in the subject, Griffin at the time of the Canberra competition was not identified with the vigorously growing American city planning movement. Aside from his campus planning experience, the only example of his efforts in urban planning to have survived in graphic form is the design for a very small, hamlet­size community in Florida called Idalia.

His only other venture in urban planning prior to the competition remains very much a mystery. This was said to be some kind of plan for the City of Shanghai, China or for some part of that city, a plan prepared at the request of a Chinese official representing his country at the St. Louis world's fair of 1904. An article in Engineering News describing Griffin's winning competition plan referred to this project: "Walter B. Griffin... has also prepared a design for a new city at Shanghai, China, a few years ago, when it was proposed to establish a modern city on a new site, and to abandon the old city, which is largely an insanitary collection of native huts. The delegate from the Chinese government to the St. Louis Exhibition had plans prepared by Mr. Griffin, but owing to the death of the delegate on his return to China nothing was done toward carrying them out."

Plat of City Central District Scale 400' = 1"
Plan of City and Environs Scale 1/4 mile = 1".
Sections Through City Scale 100' = 1".
Axis--AB Black Mountain into Upper Lake.
Axis--BA Central Basin Central Group.
Axis--CD "Ainslie" to "Red Hill."
Perspective--Scale at intersection of the Axes.
AB and CD 1340' = 1".
View from Summit of Ainslie.
Site Characteristics.
Site Adaptation.
Although the information data are exhaustive the time limit, (especially for competitors of the opposite quarter of the globe for whom the mere matter of announcement took a considerable share of the period, finally arriving at the height of the Season preparatory to Fall building, and from whom the duration of shipment has subtracted another month) has precluded to a degree the variety of tentative efforts with different "parti" that alone would render a solution final.

It is only possible to submit a design worked out tentatively but to a degree conclusive as to its practicability. In its presentation many final steps have been omitted in the belief that the general scheme is foremost in importance and the details are largely now in the light of much discussion and publication, matters of common knowledge.

Because of the uncertainty of our privately administered mails of rapid shipment the Express company, a duplicate of the written matter accompanying the drawings is posted.


The presentation of this scheme comprises and two fractional frames 30" x 30".

Plat of City, Central District, as required, on contour maps furnished with "Invitation to Competitors".

The drawing is mounted on muslin in two sections hinged together vertically.

The plat indicates-

Street and Block outlines black line.

Prominent Public Buildings gray line.

Alterations in contour as required by grading for thoroughfares, terraces, &c. brown line(omitted) .

Plan of City and Environs, one frame. Rendered on cambric in monotone to indicate graphically the dominant topographical features and the relation thereto of the proposed, and indefinitely proposed public architecture, and landscape treatment.

[From Engineering News, July, 1912]

Also the communication lines including rail and train ways and the local residential and industrial plots together with their resistance in future times.

Indication of axis of architectural arrangement in Red--Federal Group.

Municipal Group.

General Group.

Indication of Buildings--Federal black.

Municipal black hatched.

Private, tone.

Sections through the City rendered in decorative convention with color, since in fact highly conventional but technically descriptive.

AB--Northerly side of " Water Axis ".

4 frames hinged-joined.

Showing successively

Black Mountain in Profile.

University and Professional Schools.

Municipal Center of Administration of Affairs. Printry and Mint.


Public Gardens including Zoo, Museums, Theater, Stadium Casino, opera, Plant Houses, Gymnasia and Baths.

Ainslie Park and Approaches.




Station, Markets.

Public and Military Manufactories.

Central Power Station.


Military Headquarters, Armory, &c.

Lake Park.

BA--Southerly Side of " Water Axis " along Central Basin, showing Federal Government

Building, their terraces and ramps. "Water Gate" in center.

CD--Easterly Side of " Land Axis ".

4 frames, hinge-jointed.

Showing successively--

Ainslie in Profile.

Casino in Section.

Ainslie Parkway.

Railway, Viaduct, Freight House and Subway Entrance, and Church.


Station and Military Headquarters.

Museum of Plastic Art.

Museum of Archaeology.




Central Basin and Bridge.

Courts of Justice.

Departmental Buildings on First Terrace Fountain Basin and Ramp.

Houses of Parliament on Second Terrace.

Plateau with Plaza, Monument and Cataract.

Subway for Trainways and Street Traffic.


Red Hill.

Perspective--1 frame, 2 half frames hinged-joined.

View, South South-West from peak of Ainslie toward Parliament Hill, Capitol Hill and Mt. Bimberi in line, with all Public Buildings and numerous private structures indicated per details of sections.


Site Characteristics.

The natural individual characteristics of the Site, which it is the purpose of this plan to take advantage of by all means are-

1st.--The sheltering forested ranges and distant snow capped peaks South and West for background.

2nd.--The three local mountains, "Ainslie", "Black Mountain" and "Mugga Mugga" for aspect and prospect.

3rd.--The lesser hills, " Kurrajong ", " Camp Hill ", " Vernon ", " Russell ", " Shale " and others unnamed which are utilized as termini of radial thoroughfares, sites for the most important structures.

4th.--The waterway for architectural effect, recreation and climates amelioration.

5th.--The generally flat valleys for the general purposes of industry and habitation.



1. The background first mentioned above and visible primarily from the Northerly portion of the central district of the City is used to set off the governmental group, for which it serves as a "stage setting", as it were, from the closest adjacent flat lands of the opposite side of the basin used by the Public Gardens, a "parquet" for this theatrical whole and from the commercial portion of the city, next beyond and above occupying the "dress circle".

2. The mountains retained in their natural state as nearly as possible, as parks, and forest and game preserves, are treated as the termini of the principal axes of as many important vistas as possible, conversely making of them the best possible view points from which to see the city in orderly arrangement greater of such commemorative or purely monumental structures as may be desired from time to time, can be afforded on the side of Ainslie and Black Mountain especially the most commanding of situations.

3. The hills, where practicable to conform with the regular arrangement, are utilized as the elevated foundations for the utilitarian buildings of dominating importance. such as. the Capitol, The Parliament House The Station. The Market, The City Hall, The Citadel and The First Church, terminal to the greater which render them at the same time most conspicuous and accessible. Elsewhere in the lesser remaining instances, hills are in general avoided by the geometrical avenues and streets and allowed to crop through, only in places where they least interfere with the traffic and can be utilized for informal recreation or large residence sites, sanitoria, Hotels, &c., reached by winding inclines with little or no artificial grading.

4. The main waterway the "Molonglo" is left in its present state in the lowest and wildest regions, where it forms a feature of the forestry and botanical gardens continuous with Black Mountain in preservation of, or restoration to, primeval condition. Next above and at the second of the weir sites suggested in the Invitation program, a dam of very modest proportions constructed in connection with one of the roadway crossings floods the lower outlying informal lake, and the triple internal architectural basins which bound on three sides the government group for the reflection of its buildings and for improvement of the humidity conditions in the heart of the City.

This dam may be high enough to form all the lake and basin waters, but it is suggested that the waters over the large upper area subject to occasional flood may be held back at the point where the railroad and main line of traffic pass around the governmental reservation by another weir with sluices and locks to-form a naturalistic lake without whose beaches may be allowed to vary somewhat with the river supply as controlled at these sluices to maintain the formal basins and lower lake uniform throughout the year.

The most difficult problem connected with the waterway through the center of the site is to minimize its interference with traffic, and at the same time least cut up areas. The circular pools and the connecting basin provide three water bodies, each complete in itself, and located in the spaces between the direct lines of communications from center to center. At the same time, because of their largeness of scale and severe simplicity they conform to the architectural character of the center of the City with its monumental groups and throngs of busy people.

The two irregular lakes are likewise located out of the direct lines of communication and their informal treatment corresponds with the park-like, irregular character of the City's first suburban zone..

5. All the sheltered flatter areas are utilized for the general purposes of industry and habitation for the obvious reason of easiest adaptability to development, improvement and up-keep as regards grading, paving and wire and pipe service equipment.

In the laying out of these areas, which comprise the greater bulk of the city, first consideration is given to suitable plot units for building, tilling, and operating, in systematic ways, the ideal being rectangles of varied sizes.

Second consideration is for the greatest compatible facility of access, with from 6 to 9 directions readily obtainable from any point. Third consideration comprises special accommodations to suitable purposes in special case for large groups as suggested in the proposed future extensions for manufactures, agriculture, etc., and in the general case to adapt the varying degrees of access and frontage of all the individual plots to accord with the uses to which their relative positions are best adapted.

The methods for this are detailed further under the two general aspects, Occupation and Communication into which the problem resolves itself.



If this were the problem of an ordinary general city, consideration of the requirements of regular plot shapes and distribution and arrangement of the b buildings --would be sufficiently treated by utilitarian consideration of the graduation in respective requirements from centers and lines of activity and bustle to operations requiring lesser degrees of popularity and more and more of quiet and room and freedom to that finally of individual habitation.

Were there but one center, zones would accomplish this most simply.

But with many centers the first consideration is their distribution and functions and then the more complicated gradation of the intermediate areas.

In the city each group of most individualized purpose is based upon its rectangular system of buildings,

all system connecting via avenue thoroughfares of general activity with polygonal centers of the liveliest. businesses where popularity is essential at all times of day.

Public Buildings.

The prime object of the Capital City is not an intensive commerce of the throng but the housing of various specialized deliberative and educative activities demanding rather the quiet zones. Architectural rather than traffic considerations govern therefore in the placing and treating of these various functions and determine therefore for this site one general treatment which altogether must of course dominate all other constructions.

Experience from the beginnings of architecture has demonstrated that the simplest and most formal style has evolved with the completed civilization of each race at its ultimate development. Our civilization is tending that way, though by no means near the finality in rehashing the completed Roman expression of that of any other historical epoch.

Possibly the fullest scope for this tendency has been given designers in the numerous exposition projects, typical and best of which may have been the Columbian Exposition at Chicago, where the restriction to one colossal scale and single type of design around a rigidly formal enclosed court produced an impression outliving those of all subsequent experiments, or of perhaps any architectural ensemble of modern times.

The lessons to be learned from these examples are first: largeness in the unit buildings, which modern fireproof construction renders at the same time, the most convenient, and the cheapest and, as well as the most monumental shelter for our operations. With a liberality in public space, and judicious distribution of centers, and directness and speed in communication between all points, the necessity of making these large units stand on end, as in the congested American Cities, can be avoided in a Capital City at least, securing a horizontal distribution of the large masses for more and better air, sunlight, verdure and beauty.

For the essential uniformity in style it is hardly advisible[sic] to recommend, however, an adaptation of any historical style which different requirements will inevitably render a caricature instead of a reminiscence of its own proper grandeur. Thus are Greek temples rendered boxes with glass windows instead of masses of masonry, and colonades[sic] are applied in front of windowed walls to the detriment of light and comfort, and thus are noble features like columns, capitals and consoles mutilated and distorted, distributed for every sort of function except their inherent one of support. That sort of treatment may be well enough in scene painting and even exposition buildings, but can by no means be considered dignified, as permanently standing for the life and government of a great modern commonwealth. It would seem that a suggested restriction to one material reinforced concrete, the newest, cheapest, most durable, least limited, most plastic and variable single medium yet introduced into construction would contribute to dignity and impressiveness of the entire city, while purity in proportion and unity in scale; appropriate immensity in spans and masses with contracting delicacy in plastic ornamentation; the elimination of useless protective features and connective expedients, uncalled for in monolithic construction together with a maximum of repetition and rhythm, and a general simplicity which is best adapted to the economical handling of this medium would with imagination suffice for rational and genuine style.

Rigid adherence to the principles of honest direct solution of the building problems in a civilization of aspiring ideals possessing a medium with qualities so individual, so limitless must result in an architecture proportionately greater than any on earth heretofore.

For the purpose of grouping the following general classification has been observed, in accordance with which a single system of co-ordinate axes is for aesthetic reasons given to the Public buildings, the primary axes of which are the federal groups and a secondary arm:---municipal.

Possibly observations may be made of discrepancy between preaching and practice in the buildings as indicated on this city scheme but here scene painting is the theme and of the most hurried sort, not architecture under such limitations.

A suggestion of stepped pinnacle treatment in lieu of the inevitable dome is no adaptation of innovation although fully direct an expression of the construction as any double shell dome and it is an expression that was the last word of all the longest lived civilization hereto whether that be of Egypt, Babylonia, Syria, India, Indo-China, China, East Indies, Mexico or Peru.

By this arrangement all of the public buildings of whatever group, are built on parallel lines so that, as the predominant feature because of number, size, scale and open and elevated situations from any general view point of the town they will work together into one simple pattern into which the other groups must merge subordinately to maintain the fundamental simplicity.

The principal axes of this Federal Group co-ordinate system are determined by the most natural features of the site, since they furnish the fundamental basis of a Capital city at this particular location.

In the panorama Ainslie with its distinct conical peak stands out first and forms one terminus of the "land" axis which running from it to "Kurrajong", the Capital, after passing directly through "Camp Hill", produced 30 miles extends direct to the peak of Bimberi the highest in the entire region, a series of coincidences marking it distinctly almost without the assistance of man's handiwork.

The other co-ordinate or "water" axis extends from the "land" axis in one direction directly to the peak of Black Mountain a feature, second only to Ainslie in the panorama, and equidistant in the other direction on the long line of water extends to the park shores, the large upper lake. The University and the three aligned basins call for very slight additional artificiality to make the "water axis" also unmistakable.

These co-ordinate axes, are not primarily thoroughfares for communication but they form the garden frontages, as it were, for all the important federal structures.

Limited to one source of control they can systematically and consistently developed as in the case of the Mall at Washington with conditions for artistic development little hampered by utilitarian considerations and affording great ease and comfort of observation and appreciation.

The next two axes are not with the cardinal points of the compass which would mean 25% frontage without sunlight nor are they with the diagonal points, where, for parts of the day no shade can be found, but lie midway between these extremes as they should.

Government Group

Representative Government in all its ordinary functions is to be classes as deliberative and limited and is properly quartered in a Capital in an accessible but still quiet area.

As a center the capitol is the focus of nine avenues but many of these lead only to the rocky fastnesses of the highest class residence areas; none of them approach nearer the center than the limits of an extensive hilly park and at that, a limited function of the "Capitol" itself as a general administration building is suggested as one for popular assembly and festivity more than for deliberation and counsel.

The whole group of government buildings, however, is directed out from the one popular point along lines of sequence in function.

With the Parliament in two "Houses" it would seem that the fact should be recognized architecturally, so herewith is suggested an organic arrangement with "administration" as a focus and dominating feature comprising the general executive offices and official head-quarters for popular official and social functions and ceremonials. In this scheme the required structures may be disposed of per following diagram:---

Were the Parliament in one house, the following alternative arrangement would be adaptable to the same site conditions, and in that case, preferable, which it may be anyway, as a logical sequence from the general and fundamental representative course of government, parliament, through its principle attributes to its least important subdivision.

The architectural development of this latter formula would differ only in a few details from that of the other suggested. "Kurrajong" Hill being as high a point as available for natural water supply, for tall structure and accessibility, is, through its central location and isolation from other heights, the dominating building site with possibilities in a sky line. The irregularity and variety of this hill summit affords an ideal setting for the one isolated building and most appropriate situation for the two official residences. Moreover, while thoroughly sheltered by the "Red Hill" region its view not only commands the entire city, but through gaps looks into the beautiful Yarralumla lands, and beyond onto the snow cap mountain chains of the Cotter and Murrumbidgee water sheds, the most spectacular feature of the entire landscape.

The Plateau stretching from "Kurrajong" toward Camp Hill provides a sufficient foreground from this side to set off the Parliamentary group, beyond which, however, the court of the groups on the next terrace below may yet be seen and the view beyond its uninterrupted across the basin, the water front, Public Gardens, and along the broad pleasance to Ainslie. The Parliament building on the edge of Camp Hill stands forty feet above the succeeding plateau and is approached therefrom by wide ramp around the fountain and of a basin that take advantage of possibilities in a gravity water supply. From this court the Parliamentary Structure has a lofty setting stopping the long axis of the "Court of Honor" reservoir; is crowned by the Capitol building beyond and supported on the flanks by the lower Departmental buildings. The ensemble from the court presents possibilities for an impression difficult to surpass. This central court of the governmental group lies some 25 feet above the lowest terrace from which it is separated by the buildings along the waterway frontage and to which access is given by ramps at end and flights of steps between the buildings. The court terrace, however, is carried on the roof of the central buildings of the lower court jutting into the basin capped by an open colonnade toward the water surmounting a slight bank of steps to form an open forum. This building the "Water Gate" may be made use of for something more than a terrace.

Recreation Group.

Beyond the basin and about the Federal Group "Land Axis" is arranged the buildings next in importance to those of the government, the one group used in general by the people of the commonwealth as distinct from their representatives, or agents or servants. It is, therefore, located more directly in communication with the congregation centers and homes of the people than attached to any other specialized Federal Group. The circular pools and connecting basin essentially belong to this group, adapted by their continuous boulevard embankments for water pageants and the central basin, incidentally, forms a race course of just one mile between terminal bridges.

The buildings of the Public Gardens follow the order diagramed below .

The stadium for general assembly is recessed into the slope of the bank where it does not interrupt the continuous vista along the "Land Axis". The Theatre, and Opera House on either side are each reached on one side from the municipal avenue on one hand and from the boulevard of the water front garden on the other, for maximum accessibility from the residential districts. Farther to each side of the "Land Axis" are paired galleries of the graphic and the plastic arts, the museums for natural history and archeology, zoological gardens, and the baths and the gymnasia all together comprising a front toward the water for the business districts to correspond with the governmental structures on the other side of the central basin.

Continuing toward Ainslie the "Land Axis" is marked by a broad formal parkway to be maintained open in the center and banked with foliage on the sides, setting off the residences. The railroad line carried across the parkway while depressed is without side embankments to permit of a passing glimpse to the Capital[sic] group. At the foot of Ainslie centering on the structure proposed for Casino and Refectory purposes the entrance to the Federal park for recreation is marked by a formal semi-circle of commemorative structures with trails leading to points of vantage and finally to the summit of this local mountain.

Where the water axis starts at a point equidistant with Black Mountain from the "Land Axis" is the lakeside park, the other recreation amusement area of the public system most notable perhaps for the broad waters and the various reflections of the three local mountains and the very conspicuous military head-quarters Alhamb[r]a-like peering over the crest of that great bald know "Russell".


This feature with Armories, Arsenals, Drill Hall and other structures command immediately from the highest occupied crest in the site, the railway in both directions, the municipal avenue, all the waterways and overlooks the whole area of the capital.

Protected by its crest the barracks and possibly military academy are terraced on its Southerly slope.


Black Mountain rising almost directly out of the waters at the Western end of the "Water Axis" is set off from the formal pool by the University and surrounding professional schools. The Mount itself contributes to the educational purposes through botanical gardens, and forestry preserves, apparently also offering opportunity for mineralogical and mining studies. Its crest affords an outlook of more varied interest than elsewhere obtainable in the city.

The scheme of the educational group corresponds in conformity with the site conditions to the following program and comprises the fields for higher education that may be taken up by a Nation.

It will be noted that fundamental sciences, descriptive of nature lead directly to the theoretical sciences, dependent on them, along the lines of direct derivation, and through those in appropriate combination, into the lines along which they are applied to the work of our civilization. Some such arrangement is necessary to permit proper expansion in these changing fields, with convenience to students. Moreover it is endeavored to direct these lines on the site to such fields for actual application as are more available to them.

Thus from Physiology and Gymnasia open onto the broad flat athletic grounds and the water areas, and the Hospital, of itself in a most suitable isolated location with equable temperature and atmospheric conditions is adjoined by the Medical, Surgical, Pharmaceutical schools.

Thus the Agricultural schools lead into the fields and forests and waterways of the botanical and forestry preserves.

Thus Mining runs into the base of Black Mountain and Engineering lies between it and Architecture, both of which it serves and has a maximum of room for extension.

Pedagogy, Law and Commerce approach the Civic center of the people, the Courts and Offices.

A convenient succession of parallel contours on the protected slope of Black Mountain opposite the prolonged "Municipal axis" is converted by ravines, ramps, and marking as a distinctive feature the location of student dormitories and homes of the faculties.

Municipal Group.

Ranking after the Federal Groups for which the City is organized, are the public centers for all its inhabitants. Unlike the Federal Buildings their first requisite is accessibility to all.

Two such sites are made use of in the important and central hill "Vernon" and a slope of similar elevation between to terminating hills to the eastward and equidistant with "Vernon" from the "Land Axis" of the Public Buildings.

The former of these points is devoted to Administration of affairs, public and private where grouped around the City Hall are the General Post Office, Criminal and Civic Courts, Banks, Stock and Insurance Exchanges, and Offices of corporate enterprises and the professions. Although convenient to the railroads and to be reached from a local station it is not deemed good practice lending to congestion to concentrate further important functions at one center so the second of municipal centers is located at the considerable distance to allow for indefinite expansion and at a point of the same time equally accessible by rail and from the capital, and from the minor centers and residential areas. At this center are located the central railway station and the markets, around which naturally group merchandising of all sort, wholesale and retail and possibly light manufacturing. These are two groups that tend to segregate naturally in any city. For symmetry and because of their importance these are fixed as the terminals of an axis, designated the "Municipal Axis" a secondary axis of the co-ordinate system of the Federal group.

The University is made accessible through the first to the second and the Military Headquarters through the second to the first.

Private buildings are distributed between the architectural axes along as many lines as are feasible connecting with the Public groups which they supplement or with other and subordinate specialized centers of industry. Though the directions of these routes are determined according to the opportunity to follow easy and uniform gradients without humps or sags and yet with a minimum of grading while aiming towards natural or artificial points of eminence.

Each forms one of the two axes of an individual system of co-ordinates offering rectangular sites for all buildings up to the point of junction with the next similar system. Even at these intersections no acute angle sites are permitted for triangular buildings are as expensive as they are irredeemably ugly, but the obtuse angles as economical even as the rectangular with two long prospects at each sweep of the cross-connecting ring streets. These angles are as a rule, less adapted for formal than informal and picturesque treatment however, and excepting immediately around the central squares where the completed geometrical figure is manifest to the eye they occur at the very points of least communication, accessibility, and formality and the most room where such treatment is adaptable.

The parallel streets decrease in length, in accessibility and in importance in direct ratio with their distance from their main axis furnishing many valuable street terminal sites approaching more and more toward the ultimate of enclosed courts best adapted for uses requiring privacy, seclusion and quiet and tending naturally to maintain themselves for such residential and similar purposes against any possible intrusion of business. In these regions the unit block size may be varied to form considerable areas for special purposes as horticulture gardens, ornamental and industrial play grounds, saniteria[sic], residence hotels, educational institutions, etc., with the minimum interference with the traffic of the City.

Moreover a reduction here of the proportion of street area to private ground adds materially to the space available for uses, and as well as economy in service equipment, pipe and wire line pavements and their maintenance. An example of one suburban town in the writer's experience where the alternate roads as laid out were omitted leaving blocks 1,200 ft. long, was a demonstration in the consequent acquisition of all these accommodations a generation ahead of other places of similar conditions in other respects but with the greater multiplicity of streets. Because of the triangular traffic lines and business boundaries of these internal Sites, those secluded are but a few steps from the industries and communication lines which serve them and these become naturally distributed through the different sections of the City allowing domicile to be everywhere handy to work.

The standard unit residence block is designed for a depth permitting ample gardens and a separation between internal garden frontages equal to that between the frontages across the streets, the effect being the maximum degree of ventilation and privacy.

In some cases these, and in many cases larger block areas, leave opportunity for development on private or small community initiative to work out pretty schemes of driveway subdivision, recessed courts, quadrangles, lanes, Terraces, Commons Gardens, Irregular Hill Gardens, Subdivisions and a host of similar possibilities adding incident and variety to a consistent simple whole.

With the sites on the hills while an informal regularity of block arrangement may in some cases be attainable, it is not deemed particularly advantageous for where houses are on different levels much picturesque juxtaposition is permissible.

Of greatest importance however is the expedient adopted here of running the thoroughfares in the depressions and ravines not so much for economy in the grading, pipe service, drainage &c., and shelter, which belong to the circulation phases of the subject as for the giving of high lots on both sides as far as possible, enhancing their appearance of course and also their utility and value in privacy and individuality.

Provision is made for business in general not only in the immediate neighborhood of the specialized centers but along the lines of traffic radiating and short-cutting in various directions. The blocks on the long avenues are narrowed by the amount of increase in the front traffic accommodation (these avenues being twice as wide as others) and also by the width of a rear shipping way, or alley. Then, too, cross streets should be carried at least one block to either side, even in outlying places where they may be omitted alternately beyond, not only providing in effect recessed courts for enhance architectural effect but further assisting to give to all this class of ground every possible advantage in accessibility and servicibility[sic] for every business purpose.

It is contended that modern and prospective means of street transportation in the tramway and fast vehicle traffic, and of which the great progress up to the present is hardly a beginning toward speed, safety, noiselessness, and reliability in sight for the near future, mean a very different distribution of trade than where walking range has been the determining factor. During the transformation period terrific congestion has resulted in the large cities, and the lift or "elevator" pressed into service for relief. An equally well administered tram service possibly supported financially in the same way would certainly assure more convenient as well as better horizontal alignment, for even in spite of inadequate and costly nature of the street railway accommodation the trend in the larger cities of the United States of America is now obviously that of dispersion in long lines, as witness, Broadway in New York and all the important through lines that accidentally occur in Chicago of a generally unwieldy checker-board pattern. Suburban centers, situations at the points topographically available, but at greater distances from the heart of the City, are indicated on the plan of "City and Environs" to give some idea of the general extension of the principles of planing with specialized centers and radial axes, and rectangular building sites varying in utility from a maximum to a minimum of accessibility. It would seem advisable to determine the lines of extension just as far ahead as possible, as has been done in many German cities in order to prevent an ultimate obstruction of orderly growth through land speculation or misdirected improvements. The outlying center of the North is adapted to manufacturing purposes being equipped with railroad side tracks, general freight marshalling yards and constituting the closest of the suburban centers to the business districts. Here the Gas Works could be located as a modern "High Pressure" system for economy as well as to avoid the ugly tanks so conspicuous usually. The outlying village centers to the south-eastward should be adaptable ultimately to intensive agricultural and horticultural uses for truck gardens, green houses, nurseries, poultry, &c.


The general communication system does after all in spite of all esthetic conditions establish the utility of a city, not in attaining a maximum of communication lines to be sure, but in correlating the various sorts into a system of receiving, circulating and distributing.

The arrangement must be elastic and variable with varying conditions of expansion and the changes of conditions with time.

Yet it still must be detrimental to the buildings or the natural beauty in no case that is avoidable.

External Railway.

The line of railway approach from either way is directed toward the Capital hill as it comes into view and then diverted to pass around the Public Building Groups to avoid bisection of the internal traffic.

Gradients are the easiest possible being virtually a level throughout, and thoroughfare is maintained by an open depression about 12 feet deep, the excavated materials forming embankments of 6 feet in height, an elevation requiring but slight incline for crossing streets and used by the parallel roads where adjacent.

From the north the railway comes into the city adjoining occupied blocks for switching, warehouses, &c., and the flattish valley on the north end of town permits of freight marshalling and car storage yards for which a considerable area is set aside where interfering least with through internal street lines.

The line approaches the Municipal Administration center and turning at the local station, then as directed toward the eminent hill crowned by the Church into the lowest slope of which it passes as it turns and enters the market center as a subway at its own grade beneath the open square in front of the station.

Spurs afford terminal train tracks for each direct on the sides not served by the train tracks.

The station itself of hexagonal shape occupies the center of the square but to one side of the city traffic currents one to the hilly conformation at the rear.

Due sought from the station the railway emerges from the subway and follows a direct line from Ainslie crossing the waterways at junction of basin and lake and continuing between wide streets finally turning out of the city with the capital in its wake.

In general the external communicative line is treated with the dignity accorded to other lines and in this case has its well marked objectives at every turn and is afforded the finest of viewpoints where crossing each of the axes of the architectural whole.


Existant[sic] roadways are practically ignored though the through routes in the city replace them to all purposes. Future roadway may be expected to continue from the through internal lines.

Internal Circulation.

Aside from the centers for special popular industries or branches of trade the bulk of the business of the city will tend toward the most direct connecting thoroughfares. Not only their geographic arrangement but their equipment with transportation facilities operate to draw inhabitants for travel from any point and where the people are trade must be.

It is a noticeable tendency in modern towns to supplement largely where not altogether to supplant the spot concentration of mediaeval towns with long alignments of trade.

The problem of circulation is to make orderly disposition of the correlative functions and to so thoroughly adapt them by terminus selection, ample variety in direction and the convenient arrangement of feeder streets that traffic can find no competitive channel. Of course a radial system with multiple centers alone can give the multiplicity of direction and specializing with elasticity too.

To properly handle avenue traffic never can less than triple roadways be considered to take care of tramways, fast vehicles and slow vehicles in each direction.

The resultant area, if reduced to that, is a desert dangerous and unpleasant to traverse so additional space is needed for the arboreal accompaniment of at least four rows and preferably parkways of shrubbery besides, for wind and dust protection.

For that reason 200 feet is advocated in these plans. There are other reasons as ventilation, fire stop, architectural setting but in a region of broadleaf evergreen avenue trees none other than the protection and landscape setting obtained are demanded.


A system of distribution at right angles to the circulation thoroughfares gives the minimum of distance from any point to such thoroughfares. In case of public transfer lines trams, &c., this is the prime object. With a frequency of the circulation ways the distances can be short and indeed a point more than four blocks back in the triangular interspaces of the plan is a rarity and cross town lines in these cases prevent greater.

In the hilly sections the distribution takes the form of sweeping ramps confined as far as possible to the depressions for many reasons as heretofore explained and also as the simplest way, and least conspicuous in mutilation of natural rugged types of scenery.

In conforming the thoroughfares to the topography, storm water is t be disposed of either in the parkways of the streets and avenues for which ample space is allowed in the widths suggested,or in the mid axis of blocks according to the degree of deviation from the natural channels. In either case there is no reason why the freshest waterways should be less attractive in their changed state than before, an added interest for special occasions.

The standard width of distribution ways is 100 feet between building lines.


The suggestion of the street railways as indicated on the plan of "City and Environs" are tentative, but indicate the principle of long routes with necessary loops away from centers of traffic and transfer stations at the centers. 

Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: 
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