Along with iconic structures such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia boasts some highly unique architecture that has been inspired directly by Aboriginal culture, the natural environment and distinctive wildlife.
For contemporary buildings inspired by ancient Aboriginal dwellings look no further than the Kakadu Visitor Centre in the Northern Territory. Designed by the famous Darwin-based Troppo Architects firm, the centre is inspired by an Aboriginal rock shelter. Open to the general public all year round, it’s worth a visit both for the architecture and the extensive information about the flora and fauna found in the Kakadu National Park.
Another building strongly influenced by Aboriginal culture is the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Cooinda close to Kakadu. The architecture represents the story of Kakadu as told by the traditional owners. The circular design of the centre symbolises a warradjan, the pig-nosed turtle that is a totem of the area.
Some of the most famous pieces of architecture in Australia are privately-owned homes. One of Australia’s best known architects, Harry Seidler, created the modernist masterpiece, the Rose Seidler House in Sydney for his mother in 1947 because he was bored with the monotony of suburban homes. His first house attracted attention because of the unusual rectangular ‘tentacles’ that reach out the house anchor it onto the surrounding land. The Historic Houses Trust runs tours through the Rose Seidler House every Sunday.
A number of Australian hotels also boast exceptional architectural design and histories. The Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart was transformed from a row of derelict historic warehouses and a former jam factory into an enthralling boutique on Hobart’s waterfront. A dramatic feature of the hotel is the restored factory machinery and the magnificent all-glass atrium.
For a one of a kind experience, the Desert Cave Underground Hotel in Coober Pedy in South Australia is unmissable. The quiet, cool, dark and airy sandstone hotel was built in a dug-out style underground as an escape from the extreme heat of this opal-mining area.
From the red dirt of the outback to the salt of the stretches of beaches, the diversity of Australia’s landscape has been inspiration for a number of Australia’s architectural marvels. The Shark Bay Interpretive Centre at Denham in Western Australia has been inspired by the salt and sand of Australia’s oceans. The main building is a simple box clad in salt-resistant titanium zinc sheeting that has been tilted and twisted so it appears that it has been randomly blown up onto the beach. It is open to visitors all year round.
The Federation Square building in Melbourne is also strongly influenced by the Australian landscape and features ochres and sandstone on the outer cladding. The triangular façade is made of a combination of sandstone, zinc and glass that includes a total of 22,073 triangles. Federation Square hosts 2000 events a year so there is sure to be some kind of activity, exhibition, concert or event occurring during your visit.
A number of architectural tours run in Australia’s major cities and can be a great way to take in a range of architectural styles in one hit.
Sydney Architecture Walks offer architect-led urban tours of Sydney city. A range of themed tours are available including Contemporary Iconic Structures, Gritty Industrial Architecture and the Joern Utzon Sydney Opera House tour.
Melbourne Architecture Tours showcase the design of Melbourne’s past along with Melbourne’s newest architectural gems. Highlights include the Old Melbourne Gaol, the St Paul’s Cathedral and Federation Square.
The Historic Houses Trust tours explores the grand old homes of Sydney. Showcasing the colonial architecture, magnificent grounds and period furniture of homes such as Vaucluse House and Elizabeth Farm, this tour provides an intriguing snapshot of Australia’s past.