Marion Mahony Griffin

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Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, in Sydney in 1930

Marion Mahony Griffin was born in 1871 Chicago, the second child and eldest daughter of the five surviving children of Jeremiah Mahony, a journalist from Cork, Ireland, and Clara Hamilton, a schoolteacher. Her family moved to nearby Winnetka after the Great Chicago fire. Growing up there, she became fascinated by the quickly disappearing landscape as suburban homes filled the area. She was influenced by her first cousin, Dwight Perkins, and decided to further her education. She graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) in 1894. She was one of the first women to receive a degree in architecture. Though highly talented, she sometimes struggled with her place in both society and the field. She was unsure of her ability to complete the thesis required for her bachelors degree, but her professor, Constant-Désiré Despradelle, pushed her forward. After graduation, Mahony worked in her cousins architecture firm. The space was shared among many architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1895 Mahony was the first employee hired by Frank Lloyd Wright and went to work designing buildings, furniture, stained glass windows and decorative panels. Her beautiful watercolor renderings of buildings and landscapes became known as a staple of Wright's style, though she was never given credit by the famous architect. Over a century later she would be known as one of the greatest delineators of the architecture field, but during her life her talent was seen as only an extension of the work done by male architects. She would be associated with Wright's studio for almost fifteen years and was an important contributor to his reputation, particularly for the influential Wasmuth Portfolio, for which Mahony created more than half of the numerous renderings. Architectural writer Reyner Banham called her the "greatest architectural delineator of her generation". Her rendering of the K. C. DeRhodes House in South Bend, Indiana was praised by Wright upon its completion and by many critics.

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