Marion Mahony Griffin is a hidden gem within the architectural community. It is almost guaranteed that you have seen her work but never heard her name. She worked in a time and place of famous architects, Chicago, mid-1890s. She was the second women to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and went on to become the first women to be a licensed architect in Illinois.
Willits House, Highland Park Illinois
She should be called Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawing hand, as she worked and designed for him over a number of years. She was an original member of the Prairie School and a huge influence on the style. Mahony was architect, furniture and stain glass designer, and artist for the Oak Park studio. The images used to display Frank Lloyd Wright's work are hers. Supposedly, half of the renderings and images within Wright’s book, Wasmuth Portfolio, were hand drawn by Mahony. She often had design ideas chosen by Wright and was left uncredited. During Wright’s european adventures, she took on many of the firm’s projects. It is hard to imagine what her career could have been like without being an integral part of Wright’s.
Unity Temple, Oak Park, Illinois
Eventually she left the firm and relocated to Australia with her husband, also an architect. There they worked on many projects there, including an innovative design for Canberra, Australia’s capital city. Their work and lives kept them in Australia for many years and led to opportunities in India. Unfortunately, her husband passed away and Mahony left back for Australia and shortly after back to the United States. Before her death, she strived to complete a memoir of her and her husband’s lives. Never officially published (but available to read online), her 1500 paged book The Magic of America, holds essays, photos, commentary, thoughts, and beliefs.
This brief account cannot do justice to her life, talent, and career. If interested, please take the time check out the books, articles, and podcast below. We all need to learn more about this incredible woman. We know her drawings, we should know her name.
Meet Marion Mahony Griffin, Frank Lloyd Wright's Best Frenemy by Claire Zulkey
Pioneering Woman of American Architecture by Elizabeth Birmingham
Rediscovering a Heroine of Chicago Architecture by Fred Bernstein
Marion Mahony Griffen: Architect, Environmentalist, Visionary by Dr. Anne Watson
The Magic of America by Marion Mahony Griffen
Making Magic: The Marion Mahony Griffin Story by Glenda Korporaal
Marion Mahony Griffin: Drawing the Form of Nature by Debora Wood