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Architecture in South Australia: Business

This State Library of South Australia guide explores the architecture of SA, characterised by six chronological styles, starting with Old Colonial to 1840, Victorian to 1890, Federation to 1915, Interwar, Postwar and the Late Twentieth Century from 1960

State Library resources

Choose from the Library's selections below for images and brief histories.


Commercial stability and success in South Australia created opportunities for businesses to build buildings with an aesthetic appeal which symbolised and conveyed many moral and political ideas including corporate image or ambition, financial security, public benevolence as well as concerns with profit and company. For example, banking or financial buildings are often conveying a message of commercial stability and piety, or a mining company may have a building designed to show off its primary product, for example, steel.

Over the years with the development of reinforced concrete, electric lifts and the evolution of building materials such as steel and glass together with the pressures of the cost of land, the multi-story office block evolved into the skyscraper. To some, it may seem that all aesthetic values have been sacrificed in favour of measurable ones of square metres and cost.

In Adelaide, the multi-story office block did not make an impact until the 1950s and has largely been confined to the central business district between Victoria Square and North Terrace.

In this time there has been a shift in the way multi-story office blocks have been designed. From an emphasis on private ownership where many were built as premises for particular companies to a shift away from this view in the 1980s with developers focussing on building for lease purposes.  Therefore the design of the multi-story office block had to evolve to be flexible enough to accommodate any tenant.

Further reading:

Marsden, Susan. Urban heritage : the rise and postwar development of Australia's capital city centres. Canberra : Australian Council of National Trusts : Australian Heritage Commission, c2000.

For full details of the Australian Heritage Commission publications at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment see Heritage publications - DAWE