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Architecture in South Australia: Public 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.

Public buildings

As the prosperity of the colony increased, many public buildings became symbolic of colonial, civic pride and achievement.

The classical style was a model used frequently as it combined elements of dignity and grandeur with monumental and impressive scale.  You can see how this style has been adopted in the designs of the Art Gallery, Elder Hall, the Barr Smith Library and the Museum of Economic Botany.

In newly rich and growing manufacturing centres the town hall functioned as a symbol of wealth and newly acquired 'civil pomp'.  The architecture of utilitarian public places such as the Adelaide railway station also contain a great deal of symbolism which in this example could include the dominance of the city over rural localities and the supremacy of the railway in the transportation of  people and goods. 

Similarly the new Adelaide Airport terminal has been designed to symbolise South Australia as a gateway to Australia, with the inclusion of large windows taking in panoramic vistas of the hills.

Quite often public buildings are designed to showcase the best of local materials and craftsmanship. For example the South Australian Parliament House was built of materials from within South Australia to reflect the state's pride in its own resources.

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.