The Griffins' Canberra, Burnham's Chicago, Garnier's Lyon: The Perfect City on the Edge of World War

Co-presented with the Power Institute at the University of Sydney

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Cité Industrielle

Tony Garnier's drawing for his Cité Industrielle

21 October, 2011
Professor David Theodore Van Zanten

The modernist style of the American architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin is known to many Australians because of their work in Canberra, the national capital. David Theodore Van Zanten shares his research project that juxtaposes drawings for the Griffins' competition plan for Canberra (1911), the Burnham Plan of Chicago (1909), and the French architect Tony Garnier's drawings for his Cité Industrielle", published in 1917. He explores the two intersections in the story of these seminal plans: first, the Griffin's subtle debt to their compatriot Burnham; second, the experiments in a new concrete architecture shared between their plan and Garnier's. Professor Van Zanten explores the fascinating quality of optimistic fantasy in these projects, in the context of the approaching catastrophic World War.

Professor David Theodore Van Zanten lecturers in American and European architecture and urbanism after 1800 at Northwestern University. His research primarily focuses on how architects think through designs, the involvement of that with techniques of drawing, and the intersection of that with the mentalities of their interlocutors, clients on the one hand and parallel professionals – engineers, urbanists, social scientists – on the other. Secondly, he is interested in the application of this in the shaping of the modern city c. 1830-1914, especially Paris and Chicago. His Designing Paris: The Architecture of Duban, Labrouste, Duc, and Vaudoyer won the 1988 Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. He extended this work in Building Paris: Architectural Institutions and the Sullivan's City: The Meaning of Ornament for Louis Sullivan was published in 2000.

He received a Guggenheim Fellowship to study the development of Paris, London, Vienna and Hamburg. Educated at Princeton and Harvard University, prior to his appointment at Northwestern in 1979 he taught at the University of Pennsylvania and McGill University. He has held appointments at the Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art (2006) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (2008), both in Paris.