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Architecture in South Australia: Government buildings

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.


The first government offices in South Australia were a collection of timber and thatch buildings and included the Lands Office, the Survey Office, the Emigration Agent's office, stables, pig pens, poultry houses, servants quarters and the residences of Colonel Light and the Resident Commissioner. Tents and prefabricated buildings brought out from England were the norm due to a scarcity of lime for mortar and the intensive labour involved in masonry construction.

It was Governor Gawler who launched into a programme of erecting public buildings out of stone including Government House, the Adelaide gaol, government offices and military and police barracks.

Stylistically, most government buildings of the 19th and 20th centuries followed trends which were occurring in England.  This initial colonisation period meant the elegance and symmetry of the Georgian Regency period can be seen in the design of Government House and the Treasury Building.  The changes in styles and techniques of the Victorian Age did not have the opportunity to occur in South Australia until the development of the wool and wheat industries and the economic strength of these boom years from the 1860s to the 1880s. These prosperous times marked a golden age of South Australian colonial development and many of these buildings still stand.

Further reading:

Page, Michael F. Colonial South Australia : its people and buildings. South Melbourne : J.M. Dent, 1985.

Cole, Emily (Ed). A concise history of architectural styles. London : A. & C. Black, 2003, c2002.