We all (kind of) know the story of how Canberra came to be.
Australia needed a new capital city, so the design was opened up to the world as a competition.
Walter Burley Griffin, a budding architect in Chicago, submitted his detailed designs and the next thing he knew, he was in Canberra, helping bring them to life.
But Walter wasn’t alone.
2021 marks the 150th birthday of his wife, Marion Mahony, and a number of exhibitions and events here in Canberra have celebrated the part she had to play in making out city what it is today. There will be more than a party, though, as a new function centre and café will open at Regatta Point, called – quite simply – The Marion.
The 180-seat capacity function centre and café will sit on the prime piece of real estate at the heart of Canberra and promises a unique venue for weddings, celebrations and corporate events.
Having welcomed the Canberra and Region Visitor Centre to Regatta Point in 2016 and completed the upgrade of the National Capital Exhibition in late 2018, the café was the only remaining portion of the building awaiting a transformation.
Construction on The Marion began in July 2020 and was expected to be completed in November 2021, but COVID-19 delays pushed it deep into 2022.
It will be the first interstate venue for the Grand Pacific Group (GPG), which has been on the scene for 19 years and are the masterminds behind several well-known Sydney restaurants, including The Blue Room at Bondi and The Tea Room in Sydney’s QVB. They were looking for an opportunity outside NSW when Lake Burley Griffin caught their eye.
GPG approached the National Capital Authority (NCA) with their plans to revitalise the space with a building that honours Canberra’s matriarch.
The Marion’s marketing manager Emma O’Sullivan says Walter’s long-time creative collaborator has gone largely undocumented and unrecognised.
“We credit her by naming the stunning lakeside vantage after her. In addition, there will be a smaller, more accessible yet delicious café that will be open within the building, which will be named The Walter. We want to continue to celebrate this marriage of minds but highlight Marion in a bigger way than she has been honoured before.”
H&E Architects were commissioned with the design, and the building’s importance wasn’t lost on them either.
“Marion Mahony was an incredible architect in her own right,” architect Hames Sharley says.
“As a woman beginning her career in the 1890s, being able to stand on her own two feet was no easy task for Mahony, despite her clear talent.”
The floor plan includes several dining spaces and a café, with indoor and outdoor options for both. There will also be a dance floor, bar and private ‘bridal room’ for special occasions, all with sprawling views over the lake.
The menu is still under wraps at the moment, but Emma assures that with some exceptionally talented chefs coming from top restaurants in Sydney and overseas, we can expect great things. The last few months have seen the management team scouting local growers and wineries to highlight.
“The approach will showcase the best of what Australian producers have to offer with honest, unpretentious dishes that are super delicious,” Emma says.
GPG is tight-lipped on the exact opening date for the restaurant and café, but the development page on the National Capital Authority notes that the current program should see it open by early May 2022.