Australian architecture has generally been consistent with architectural trends in the wider Western world, with some special adaptations to compensate for distinctive Australian climatic and cultural factors such as Edwardian architecture, Brutalist architecture and inclusive of Contemporary architecture.

Indigenous Australians produced only semi-permanent structures from readily available material. During Australia's early Western history, it was a collection of British colonies in which architectural styles were strongly influenced by British designs.

However, the unique climate of Australia necessitated adaptations, and 20th-century trends reflected the increasing influence of American urban designs and a diversification of the cultural tastes and requirements of an increasingly multicultural Australian society.

What is it famous for?
Notable Australian architectural adaptations include the Queenslander and Federation styles of residential architecture. Iconic Australian buildings, notable in Australian architecture history and winning architecture competitions include the UNESCO listed Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building, Brisbane City Hall and the 11 remnant penal colony sites selected for World Heritage protection in 2010. 

Is it popular?

Australian houses and Australian buildings have evolved significantly over time, from the early days of structures made from relatively cheap and imported corrugated iron (which can still be seen in the roofing of historic homes) to more sophisticated styles borrowed from other countries, such as the Victorian style from the United Kingdom, the Georgian style from North America and Europe and the Californian bungalow from the United States. A common feature of the Australian home is the use of fencing in front gardens, also common in both the UK and the US.

What makes it unique?

To keep it short and sweet, climate consideration and its influence on materials and styles.


In the period before European settlement of Australia, there were diverse forms of Indigenous architecture across Australia which have helped shaped the famous buildings in Australia today.

The rich architecture traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples generally went unrecognised, and when it was recognised generally downplayed by the European Settlers.

However, many early colonists and explorers including Sir Thomas Mitchell and Charles Sturt recorded many indigenous building styles including stone houses and houses grouped in villages.

As a British colony, the first European buildings were derivative of the European fashions of the time. As most of the colonialists where from England the first buildings reflected English ideas.

Georgian architecture is seen in early government buildings and the homes of the wealthy. The architect Francis Greenway, who appears on the Australian ten-dollar note designed early buildings in the Georgian style.

Examples include the Hyde Park Barracks, St James' Church and St Matthews Church at Windsor.

Another European style to gain favour in 19th century Australia, particularly in churches, was Gothic Revival architecture.

Pointed arches, turrets, battlements and gothic ornaments could also be found on bank, insurance offices, university buildings and homes. One of the best examples of this style can be seen at the lower end of Collins Street in Melbourne.

Who is the Australian Architecture Association?

The Australian Architecture Association supports discourse and the promotion of architecture in the Australian cultural milieu - architecture that is manifestly of its place and its time, which is simultaneously modern and timeless.

The right to practise with integrity, in an ethical and sustainable manner and with artistic and technical excellence is fundamental to architecture that is contemporary, culturally informed and socially engaged.

A constituency drawn from architects, likeminded professionals, commerce and the broad community will embed contemporary architecture as a primary tenet of our society.

Different types of Australian architecture

Victorian (1840 to 1890)
British styles of housing heavily influenced Australian architects in the 19th century and Victorian homes (named for the period in which Queen Victoria reigned) proved to be the most popular type. They began as formal but plain one-storey abodes – sometimes freestanding, sometimes terraced – and as the period progressed they became grander and taller, adorned with decorative brickwork, timber verandahs and patterned tile floors. Their cast-iron lacework also became more detailed and more ornate thanks to two significant Australian events in the 1850s.

Workers’ cottage (1840 to 1900)
For such a humble home, the workers’ cottage is brimming with history and character. They were commonly built in the 19th century, at a time when our cities were the centres of industry. Warehouses, wool stores, breweries, manufacturing plants, and timber yards packed our inner-city suburbs including Sydney’s Balmain and Pyrmont; Melbourne’s Fitzroy and Albert Park; and Brisbane’s West End and Nundah. Workers also resided in these areas in brick, sandstone and weatherboard cottages. The cottages were tiny, often not sewered and, for the most part, damp and dark.

Inner-city terrace (1850s to 1890s)
Our charming inner-city terraces are not always what they seem. While they’re beautiful facades conceal unexpected interiors, it’s also hard to believe they were once banned in most parts of Australia.

Federation style (1880s to 1910s)
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Federation style architecture was a symbol of Australia’s budding national identity. The country was federated in 1901 and the fervour of nationalism and pride filled the air. With it came the desire to express the country’s new national identity, which would include a style of architecture and housing, later to be known as the Federation style.

The Queenslander (Late 19th century to late 1930s)
If New York has its penthouse apartments and Paris has its pied-à-terre’s, then Brisbane has its Queenslanders – an enduring style of architecture that brings a character and identity to the city’s oldest neighbourhoods.

What other types of styles have influence Australia?

Like elsewhere in the world, socio-political factors have played their roles in shaping Australian architecture.

During the early 20th century, cities across Australia had placed building height limits, typically 45m, thus hampering the development of American-style skyscrapers until the limits were lifted in the late 1950s.

Likewise the popular notion of the "Australian Dream", in which families seek to own their free-standing houses with backyards, meant that high-density housings were rare in Australia until the end of the 20th century.

The design of housing in Australia after World War II, which was mostly undertaken by builders, has been described as poor aesthetically and environmentally.

Significant concern was raised during the 1960s, with green bans and heritage concerns responding to the destruction of earlier buildings and the skyscraper boom, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, but affecting other major cities including Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane.

Green bans helped to protect historic 18th-century buildings in The Rocks from being demolished to make way for office towers, and prevented the Royal Botanic Gardens from being turned into a carpark for the Sydney Opera House.

In Melbourne a battle was fought to preserve historic Carlton, Victoria from slum reclamation for public housing, while gentrification played a big part in the suburb's salvation.

In Melbourne's city centre, the destruction was particularly profound: Whelan the Wrecker was a family owned and operated demolition company that operated from 1892 until 1992, which became well known through the 1950s, 70s and 80s when signs stating that "Whelan the Wrecker is Here" appeared on many of the grand Victorian era buildings of Marvellous Melbourne.

One of the most lamented losses in Melbourne was the Federal Coffee Palace on Collins Street and the APA Building (inspired by Chicago's early skyscrapers) at 49 Elizabeth Street.

Many of the destruction occurred after the International Modernism style arrived in Australia, making Australians particularly conscious about Victorian architecture they felt was "dated".

In the 21st century, many Australian architects have taken a more avant-garde approach to design, and many buildings have emerged that are truly unique and reflective of Australia's culture and values.

As a result, many Australian practices are beginning to expand their influence overseas rather than the reverse which was often the case.

Melbourne is seen as the city at the forefront of design ideas. Sydney is focusing on the humanist approach tending towards minimalism and architecture in Queensland is interested in outdoor rooms and the filtering of light.

Furthermore, greater appreciation for Australia's historic architecture has led to increased heritage protection for many buildings in Australia's cities, though not all buildings are protected, and some allow for façadism if the interior is unsustainable or unsafe.

Architecture salary Australia

On average, $90,860 per year.

Professional architects are expected to be in high demand in Australia, according to figures from the Australian Government's Job Outlook initiative. They say that employment for architects to November 2020 is expected to grow very strongly. Architects currently have a lower than average rate of unemployment.

Famous Australian architects

Francis Greenway
Anglo-Australians aren’t necessarily proud of their convict roots, but some of the country’s finest colonial architecture was created by a criminal dubbed ‘The Convict Architect’. Francis Greenway was a successful designer in Bristol before he was transported to Sydney for a 14-year stint in 1814, and his talents were exploited by significant British Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who compelled him to draw up landmarks such as St James Church and the Supreme Court.

Edmund Blacket
This English-born architect arrived in Sydney in 1842, placing an enduring stamp on Australia’s oldest city with designs for the University of Sydney and St Andrew’s Cathedral. Blacket was nicknamed the ‘Wren of Sydney’ for the myriad churches he built for the Church of England in the Harbour City, and served as the official ‘Colonial Architect to New South Wales’ between 1849 and 1854.

Brit Andresen
From the old to the new, and the first woman to ever be awarded the Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 2002. Andresen was born in Norway but moved to Australia in 1977 to take a position at the University of Queensland, before founding Andresen O’Gorman Architects with husband Peter O’Gorman in 1980. Her work in scholarship and practice netted Andresen the profession’s highest accolade in 2002, breaking new ground for female architects.

Glenn Murcutt
This London-born designer is often described as Australia’s most famous architect, leaving his mark on buildings across the country over the last half a century. Practising sustainability way before his time, 81-year-old Murcutt has collected so many awards over his five-decade career that he almost needs to draw up blueprints for a place to house them all! Glenn’s son Nick was also a pre-eminent architect until he tragically died of lung cancer in 2011, aged 46.

Phillip Cox
This 78-year-old giant of the profession is the founding partner of COX Architects, one of Australia’s biggest firms, responsible for projects in every corner of the globe. Originally focusing on quintessentially Australian homes, Cox later turned his attention to grander works, including some of Australia’s most iconic sporting arenas such as the Sydney Football Stadium, Rod Laver Arena, AAMI Park and the Northern Stand of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Sydney Opera House

Definitely Australia’s most famous building, Sydney Opera House was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon. Construction began in 1958, but the multipurpose venue would only formally open in 1973. Nowadays, it is considered to be one of the 20th century most iconic buildings and it is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Q1, or Queensland Number One, is Australia’s highest building at 1,058 ft (322mt). Designed by SDG & The Buchan Group and inspired by the Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch, Q1 is currently the seventh-tallest residential building in the world!

Royal Exhibition Building

Probably the most ancient building in our list, and one of the most beautiful, the Royal Exhibition Building was finished in 1880 to host the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880–81. It has since been restored twice and it was the first building in Australia to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.