The State Library of NSW is organising a unique exhibition early next year that will celebrate 200 years of public architecture in New South Wales.

Imagine a city: 200 years of public architecture in NSW will be held from 20 February 2016 till 8 May 2016.

For 200 years the NSW Government Architect’s Office (GAO) has been the driving force behind many of the State’s most celebrated and occasionally controversial buildings from the Sydney Opera and Taronga Zoo’s elephant house to Darlinghurst Goal and the Lunatic Asylum at Parramatta.

The architecture exhibition, Imagine a city aims to challenge visitors to imagine NSW cities, suburbs or towns without public buildings while also seeking to refresh their memories of life at school, work and pleasure in and around public architecture.

The free exhibition will put on display a rich and rarely seen collection of original drawings, photographs, plans, paintings and models from both historic and contemporary times of various public buildings including works by iconic artists and photographers such as Max Dupain, Lloyd Rees and Harold Cazneaux.

Francis Greenway was NSW’s first Government Architect appointed in 1816 by Governor Macquarie. The GAO has since then been headed by 23 Government Architects with hundreds more working within the office to design thousands of buildings from courthouses, post offices, schools and police stations to goals, libraries, galleries and parks. Peter Poulet is the 23rd and current NSW Government Architect.

Image: Post Office, Bondi, about 1900.