A mix of Wright [Frank Lloyd] and the right angle, the 1911 prize-winning plan for the Australian capital of Canberra was a tribute to the contours of the land as well as the imposition of a design hand on those curves and rolling hills by a talented American architect.
Seven decades later, its upgrading in the major competition of the decade tries for a blend of the same virtues.
Walter Burley Griffin, the Chicagoan who won the prize in the first place, spoke sensitively of the land he saw:
"The morning and evening lights of Canberra are wonderful. The shadows of the clouds and the mists as they cross the mountains are very beautiful indeed. It is a grand site for a city."
While some have called the capital a "sheep station" in the outback, or "60 suburbs in search of a city," his heir has found a similar spirit and expressed it in a parallel style.
Romaldo Giurgola, the Italian-born Philadelphia/New York architect who beat an international roster of designers for the expansion this year, spoke with the same sentiment recently as he showed slides with his visions of the Australian countryside spliced with citations of Australian reading matter (specifically, "My Brilliant Career").
In short, both men attended to their era's urge for the restrained order bequeathed by architects past and the landscape present.
It was the day of the classic revival for Griffin. The Columbian Exposition of 1893 had established the idea of a White City in Chicago -- a city of orderly , axial symmetry, of pure and monumental forms with trees to define and soften the awesome size.
With confidence that the straight line was more than the shortest distance between two points, Griffin planned his major axis from the local Mt. Olympus -- Mt. Ainslie -- direct to Capitol Hill. The fact that the vista ran a whopping 3 .2 miles north to south was in its favor.
Always, though, the plan recorded nature's input in the manner of his and wife Marion Mahoney Griffin's mentor, Frank Lloyd Wright, as they reckoned with the complex of hills and valleys of Canberra.