For a city that’s not very old at all, Brisbane has quite an impressive array of architecture, with some of the big highlights lying in its earlier-era creations. Many buildings in the Brisbane area have been lost and acquired at a faster rate than any other city in Australia. In fact, there are only two buildings remaining from Australia’s past as a prison for convicts. With many of the city’s historical buildings undergoing renovations over the past 10 or 20 years, Brisbane has begun to embrace its history through its incredible architecture, with even some of the older apartments in Brisbane being restored to their former glory.
Not only is the beauty of Brisbane’s architecture limited to public buildings, but traditional ‘Queenslander’ homes also shed a light into some of the most interesting and pleasing examples of building and architecture in the state. If you want to take a look at some architectural highlights around the Brisbane area, the following are just some of the standout places of interest you should visit around Brisbane’s CBD.
This heritage-listed building was once the tallest building in Brisbane. Built in 1920, it’s considered to be Italian Renaissance in architectural style and most notable is its 92 metre clock tower. Although a beautiful and inspiring building today, the process to build the City Hall was not smooth sailing at all. Prior to construction, there was public outcry over the potential costs the building would impose on the general public. Designs for the building were sought after, and the original plan consisted of an Angel of Peace at the top of the clock tower, with horses, chariots, and copper domes in the corners. In order to cut down on costs and keep the general public happy, however, the original design was scrapped.
There was also lots of bad weather during the construction of the building, which saw a workman inspecting the construction area suffer death by drowning. Over the years, many notable figures have visited the site, including the Beatles, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and the Dalai Lama. Still a popular venue in Brisbane for free concerts and public events, the City Hall is considered by many Brisbanites to be the heart of the city.
This fantastic building is one of the real architectural highlights of Brisbane, built in 1889. Now owned by the University of Queensland, this beautiful building is the home of the Summer Concert Series put on by the university, as well as being one of the city’s most sought after venues for weddings, functions, and private parties. One of the building’s most striking features are the carved scenes into the pediment of a kangaroo and emu with a shield, closely resembling the Queensland Coat of Arms. This design was created long before the creation of the Queensland Coat of Arms, however.
The majority of the external areas of the building are original and intact from its initial construction, including a fig tree planted in the private garden, which is thought to have been there since 1890. The interior has been dramatically altered over the years, including the grand staircase, which was once cedar, then terrazzo, and is now cedar once again in an attempt to replicate the original look. Located right near the river in downtown Brisbane, and famous for its magnificent Corinthian columns, this is one of those places you must visit when in Brisbane.
This fabulous building was built in 1904 as a Presbyterian Church, and has been a prominent Brisbane landmark ever since. Built outside the Gothic in-style of architecture at the time, the building won its architect, George Payne, a design competition and has now become one of his best architectural examples in the Southern hemisphere today. Renowned stained glass artists William Bustard created the windows sitting to the right of the neo-Romanesque style church, near the entrance. Amazing treasures are found within the walls of this church, such as the wooden communion set used during World War 1 by the Chaplain of St. Andrews. There are also communion tokens dating from 1678. With its towering spires, beautiful arches, and striking red brick, St. Andrews has been one of the city’s most recognisable buildings for over a century.
A short walk from the city’s Botanical Gardens is one of Queensland’s most significant heritage listed buildings, Old Government House. Built in 1862, this historic building has been around since the early days of the city, and has been used as an administrative and social centre for almost 150 years. After being the vice regal residence for almost 50 years, Old Government House became part of the University of Queensland in 1909, with its first classes held in 1911.
This fantastic architectural marvel consists of a series of arches and columns, and following major renovations, celebrated its rebirth by winning the John Dalton Award for Building of the Year in 2010. Some of the striking features of the House include the animal ‘sanctuary’ and ‘Woodland walks’, which were designed and created by Sir John and Lady Goodwin. Many people have lived within the walls of this fascinating building, including MP Johann Heussler, John Stevenson MP, and Governor Sir William MacGregor.
Fans of Gothic architecture will love this magnificent building, which has taken over a hundred years to complete. Considered to be of French Gothic influence, the construction has continued over three stages, with the result being an exquisite example of the work of famous church architect, John Loughborough Pearson. Constructed with local tuff and Helidon sandstone, it reached final completion in 2009.
Although very Victorian and Gothic in style, the church is not lacking any authentically Australian features to its design. Sculptures and images within the stained glass windows show Australian native animals, making this building unique in its own sense. The cushions placed on the pew also feature Australian flora and fauna. If you like super-high ceilings and towering columns, make sure you pay a visit to St. John’s next time you’re roaming around Brisbane
Considered a cornerstone of Brisbane’s Catholic community, St. Stephen’s took 58 years to build – between the years 1864 and 1922 – and had renovations done in again in 1989. Designed by Benjamin Backhouse, this grand building project had to be downsized several times due to financial constraints, though the end result still proved spectacular. With two sandstone towers topped by intricate spires and stained glass windows imported from Munich, this building is considered a Gothic revival cathedral, and is well worth a visit if you’re at all interested in architecture.
It has taken a while, but people are starting to wake up to the fact that Brisbane is in fact quite an architecturally impressive city, and it’s mostly thanks to its old school buildings. For a great way to spend your next holiday, check into one of the beautiful serviced apartments in Brisbane, and spend a bit of time wandering the downtown core and appreciating some of this city’s splendid creations.