This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol5", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
(Contributed by R. J. Haddon, F.R.V.I.A., F.S.A.I.A.)
Australian architecture, as we see it to-day, has in its different phases all the variations of development from the primitive slab wood hut to the magnificent granite pile that marks the corner of her most modern city; for, be it remembered, Australia is a vast continent with scattered settlements over distant areas, yet gathering into the great coastal cities some of the finest streets and most substantial and costly buildings in the Empire. And when it is borne in mind that this development of colonisation has extended only over a period of a little more than one hundred years, the question of Australian building, with its problems of planning and construction, must needs present many interesting features to the architect.
Upon reference to the map (Fig. 178) it will be seen that the continent comprises the five States of the Commonwealth, namely - New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania, - with many adjoining islands of minor importance, each State having its own local parliament and capital city. To these capital cities we should direct our attention, for it is characteristic of Australia that by far the greater numbers of the population are found in them, namely - Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, and Hobart.
These cities lie at the following distances from each other -
Sydney to Melbourne..
Melbourne to Adelaide.
Sydney to Brisbane...
Adelaide to Perth...
Melbourne to Hobart.
Now, grasping these simple facts, it will be readily understood that though there may be, and there are, many things in Australian architecture that are common to the whole and typical of the whole continental practice, yet between Tasmania on the extreme south and Brisbane away north, not forgetting the scattered townships far up the Western Australian coast, there is a vast difference in climate and natural conditions that has found reflection in the buildings and works.
Climate and available material will affect building wherever found, even in spite of the prejudices of the designer in favour of certain typical forms. The set English form is most noticeable in the early work; in parts of old Sydney and in Hobart there are quaint examples of the terrace cottage built right up to the street line, with cramped back-yards and the quite English way of making one yard common to a row of tenements; and a general treatment of building more suited to a bleak climate than to the sunshine of Australia.