A Brief History of Australian Architecture Styles 

April 27, 2022
australian architectural styles

Like in any other country and continent, Australian architectural styles have progressed. 

If you have been home hunting for a while, you have definitely been shown some “period-style” homes in your search.  

These features and home designs point to the progression in Australian architectural styles timeline designed by different famous Australian architects. 

We will run through the various styles that have defined the architectural scene in the Oceanic nation for the past 200 years. 

This way, the next time you see a feature or home design, you know exactly what you are looking at. 

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The Pre-Colonial (Pre 1800s)

 Australian architectural styles pre-colonial
Source: Romseyaustralia

Pre-colonial Australians were semi-nomadic, so there was no use in building houses. Their settlements were determined by the climatic seasons, which are constantly changing.

The ideal homes were shelters with sticks arranged in a semi-circle and covered by sheets of tree barks. 

This arrangement was enough to cover their heads to sleep; every other business like cooking, easing oneself, and bathing was done in bushes. 

In the absence of good bark, grass, leaves, and reeds were used to make thatched roofs.

Later, the indigenous people used the dry stone technique to create lean-ons and raised sleeping platforms. 

This style is still existent, though scarce, and was discovered around Lake Condah, Victoria, in January 2006.

Colonial (1800-1849)

 Australian architectural styles colonial
Source: Pinterest

Australian colonial house designs were essential for about 50 years after the British set foot on the islands. 

The colonialist style heavily influenced the houses built between 1788 and 1840.

Early colonial architecture was exhibited in Sydney when the British needed to house supplies for the colony. 

The British used tents for this purpose until the introduction of corrugated iron sheets. 

Still, these materials were also in short supply, so Australians turned to important trees like the Melaleuca and the Iron Bark.

These barks were widely used as roofing materials for colonial-style homes in Australia wherever the trees were found, as they were favoured for their resilience.

The Melaleuca and the Iron Bark are weatherproof, insulative, and can remain in place for around thirty years. 

Australians maintained this roofing method until World War II.

Soon, the Colonial builders became skilled in working timber. This durable wood has characterised the Australian architectural style ever since.

The Colonial buildings are simple: A rectangular prism with hipped or gabled roofs and a veranda resting on wooden columns. The kitchen is often detached and is accessed by a rear veranda.

Victorian (1840-1890)

 Australian architectural styles victorian
Source: BuildersAcademy

This style reigned between 1840 and 1890, and it is named after Queen Victoria, who ascended the throne a year earlier.

The Victorian homes cover a lot of styles and attributes, which is why the period is split into three: Early, Mid, and Late.

Early Victorian styles were highly symmetrical. The houses have a central front door, a hallway straight down the middle, and four rooms, two on each side. 

It may have a veranda or not. These buildings were made to house workers during the Victorian Era, and some still stand today.

By the time Mid Victorian homes started appearing, the style had gained massive popularity. 

Builders put more ornamentation into building these homes, and it evoked aesthetics in the polished floorboards and the front verandas they spotted. 

Nowadays, home buyers favour the Mid Victorian-Style homes more than the others.

Late Victorian introduced more ornamentation. Mouldings are visible in every room, coloured window glasses, and more defined walls and arches.

Federation (1890-1915)

 Australian architectural styles federation
Source: Houzz

Also known as the Edwardian, this style is named after King Edward VII, who ruled during the era. 

The buildings of this time were familiar sights in the United Kingdom and its colony countries.

Just like its fame abroad, it was one of the Australian architectural styles gaining attention among its people. 

The Edwardian 1920 house styles in Australia are notable for the brick walls and fretworks of timber make.

These homes also deviated from using corrugated iron sheets to adopting galvanised iron and terracotta tiling for their unique steeply sloped roofs.

There are twelve different Federation styles with similar features and minute disparities. However, only four of them are used for residential homes. 

They are the Federation Queen Anne style, Federation Filigree style, Federation Arts and Craft style, and Federation Bungalow style.

Inter-War (1918-1938)

 Australian architectural styles inter-war
Source: HeritagePainter

If the building has a veranda held up by front columns, it is an Inter-War building. 

Whether it is a storey building or a bungalow, certain features are common to all the Australian house styles in the 19th century. 

They have gable roofs facing sideways or the front of the house. 

Also, they were finished with darker colours, but this changed over time as Australians wanted to lighten their spaces and make each room feel more open.

Post War (1940-1960)

 Australian architectural styles post-war
Source: HeritagePainter

As you will expect, the post-war years were a time of recovery. People were displaced in the aftermath and needed housing, but building materials were scarce. 

An Australian post-war house revealed this scarcity. The buildings are minimal, and they maximise available construction materials. 

The Australian Architectural styles characterising the post-war period capitalised on the use of brick veneer. A single layer of brick is used to cover the actual construction(steel or wood) as a finish. 

It offers the same look as a double brick building. A stand-out example of the postwar era is the Rose Seidler House, even though its architect, her son Harry Seidler, furnished it with modernist features. 

The two-storey, twelve-room house is now a tourist attraction in Sydney.

Late Twentieth century (1960s -70s)

 Australian architectural styles late 20th century
Source: Pexels

The late-twentieth-century style is more modern. It binges on the current architectural styles worldwide and mashes up the past Australian architectural styles. 

This era was born in the 1960s. By the 1980s to 1990s, the demands for housing put a strain on building materials. So, the homes are relatively cheap.

This category has many styles, including Stripped Classical, Late Modern, and Perth Original. Nevertheless, as newer buildings are erected, there is no strict adherence to any of these styles.

Builders make twitches to satisfy spiritual, emotional, sculptural, and physical needs based on preference. Also, the layout and views you desire are essential. 

It is vital to take time to review the various Australian architectural styles pioneered in the late twentieth century and, still necessary now, to make choices that suit your taste. 

Here, the brick veneer is loved by many, and nearly every home embraces the open living option.

Liked learning about Australian architectural styles?

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