Continental Wonders: Five architectural highlights of Australasia

From its flat desert reaches to its populated metropolises, Australasia is a continent of varying landscapes. This wondrous diversity can also be found in its architecture, from stunning stadiums in remote locales, to award-winning shoreline skyscrapers.

Read on to discover some of the structural delights awaiting your eyes in the southern hemisphere.

The Beehive

Wellington, New Zealand

The New Zealand Parliament Buildings executive wing, commonly referred to as the Beehive, is situated at the corner of Lambton Quay and Molesworth Street. The “Beehive” moniker comes from the buildings unusual shape, which emulates a traditional-style wicker hive called a “skep”.

An extension to the 1922 Parliament House was suggested in the 1960s, but rather than complete the original plans for the building, a more modern design was opted for. Sir Basil Spence, a Scottish architect, created an original concept design for the Beehive in 1964 which included the rotunda that rises in incremental steps. The full architectural design was then tackled by Fergus Sheppard, architect for the New Zealand Government, with the building’s structural design managed by the Ministry of Works.

The Beehive was constructed in two stages during a 10-year period from 1969 to 1979. The initial phase included the underground parking area, podium and basement for use by the national civil defence centre. The 10-floors above were then built in the second stage of construction.

In 2015, Heritage New Zealand registered the government edifice with its highest rating, stating the Beehive was “one of the most recognisable buildings in the country”.


Surfers Paradise, Australia

Australia’s tallest building, Q1 (Queensland Number One) is a 1,058-foot skyscraper located on the nation’s Gold Coast. Up until 2011, it was the tallest residential structure in the world, losing its title to Dubai’s Marina Torch.

In 2009, the tower was recognised as a Queensland icon during celebrations for the state’s 150th birthday. Atelier SDG designed the building, inspired by the curvature of the Sydney Opera House and the same city’s 2000 Olympic torch.

The building of Q1 began in June 2002, managed by Sunland Construction. Every four days, a new level was added. Over 2,500 people were part of the project, which took three years and a grand total of two and a half million man hours to complete. The Q1 officially opened on October 26, 2005.

Constructed from reinforced concrete for the most part, the tower’s spire is a combination of glass and steel that commences from the structure’s 75th level. When fully illuminated, the spire’s powerful arc lights can be seen from 200 kilometres away

Downtown Ferry Terminal

Auckland, New Zealand

Located at Queen Streets’ north end, the terminal is the hub of Auckland’s bustling ferry network. The eye-catching edifice is comprised of two different elements – aq new waiting area building and wharves acting as the working ferry terminal, and the older contrasting yellow and brickwork building in an Edwardian Baroque style.

The older building was designed by architect Alex Wiseman and constructed by Philcox and Sons. Completed in 1912, it was built from a combination of brick and sandstone on a foundation of Coromandel granite atop an area of reclaimed land.

Architect Murray Day designed the newer, more contemporary waiting area and piers. The modern structures design is open-sided, featuring curving seagull/sail roofing and purely ornamental smokestack-style turrets to conjure the idea of ships docked behind the older building. The new buildings design needed to satisfy a variety of different criteria.

The brief required a building with a low profile to retain views of the surrounding structures, be easy to maintain and have the potential to expand as and when required.

Wanangkura Stadium

Port Hedland, Australia

This brightly coloured recreation centre stands in the badlands of Western Australia and is named after the local Kariyarra word for whirlwind as a nod to the building’s design. Sophie Cleland, architect at ARM stated the design was intended to create a “shimmering, rippling effect on an otherwise flat landscape”.

ARM architects were charged with designing a centre for major sporting events and a place for community gatherings. The facility was carefully planned to include a gym, indoor and outdoor basketball and netball courts, squash courts, and club and function rooms for events

The innovative design approach creates a building that appears as a mirage. A unique pixelated “halftone” technique was adopted which allows the stadium’s entry point to be strongly visible from a distance, but appear agitated when inspected closer.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney, Australia

The iconic Sydney Opera House was designed by Jorn Utzon, an architect from Denmark. His prize-winning design was selected from over 200 entries in an international competition held in 1957. Construction was authorised by Australia’s then Premier, Joseph Cahill, to commence in 1958 with Utzon directing the project, but the building was not formally opened until 1973.

The structure features a design which is considered modern expressionist. The famously shaped roof is constructed from a series of immense concrete shells composed of parts of a sphere. These shells are well supported by ribs crafted also from concrete. The facility is 183 metres in length and 120 metres in width at its widest section. The highest point of the roof is 67 metres tall above sea level, which is equivalent to a building with 22 storeys.

The opera house was constructed in three stages – first the podium, then the roof, followed finally by the interiors. The total cost for completion for the structure was $102m.

The unique building paved the way for the incredibly complex geometry found in today’s modern architecture and its design was a pioneer in using computer-aided design to plan out complex forms.

Counted among the most distinctive and renowned buildings in the world, the Sydney Opera House is instantly recognisable and a national symbol not only for Australia but for its arts.

Australasia is abound with different architectural styles from colonial to contemporary. Side by side, you can see the old embracing the new throughout its history of building. Iconic designs that become household names can be found here, as well as transport stations from another time.

Touring the smallest continent in the world, you might just find some of the biggest dreams brought to life in concrete, steel, glass and brick.

Posted by Mark
July 10, 2019

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment