Adelaide is the beautiful capital of South Australia. The city of Adelaide rests on the Torrens River. Flanked by The Great Southern Ocean to its south and a series of fertile hills that sprawls away into the country’s dramatic red center to the north. Named in honour of Queen Adelaide, it is a city that is dipped in spectacularly rich history and church culture. It is a graceful beachside city plenished with churches, hand-crafted stone buildings, scenic parklands, and an ardent legacy of its early history. 

It originated in 1836, as a planned capital designed for the free settlers of the Britain province and has been an evolving part of South Australia ever since. Let us understand how the architecture of Adelaide morphed into the beauty it is, sprinkled by history, culture, political dynamics, and modernization.

An Abstract of Adelaide’s Reflection

Painting a picture of the city’s character before delving deep into the architectural stories is an important stride.

Adelaide is a surreal combination of the old and new. It is a place to relax and rediscover the goodness that life carries. A city that helps you slow down and take time to enjoy locally sourced food, award-winning wine, and history interlaced with passion, romance, and charm. The city center has a grid outline, designed by founding member William Light. The streets of Adelaide are entailed with edifices of the past, simultaneously studded with new creations that are like stars in an antique universe. 

Shimmering beaches and world-class wine is the defining element that the city beholds. Adelaide metro offers some free transport like trains, trams, and buses to travel around the city center; this service reflects Adelaide’s rooted values of a wild heart and a free spirit to travel.

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A petite skyline’s reflection _©

The First Footprints

Contrasting to Australia’s other prominent capital cities, Adelaide was established not by convicts but by successive waves of free settlers and immigrants. These early travellers brought with them a sense of elegance and refinement as they set out creating a better life for themselves, thousands of miles away from home. 

Prior to the years of its institution as a British settlement in 1836, the area around Adelaide was occupied by the native Kaurna people. Once the free settlers started streaming in, it was framed by their wealth and the intense diversity that floated along. 

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The indigeneous Kaurna people_© 
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The free settlers; planned Adelaide’s founding members_©Charles Hill

Culture Credentials

Adelaide has tremendously undergone identity shifts from being called the city of churches in the past to being an internationally acclaimed wine hub. In the recent past, it has been stated as the festival city due to its fervent celebrations throughout the year. 

Some of the architectural highlights that are wrapped in cultural expressions are Tandanya National Aboriginal Culture Institute, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, National Wine Centre of Australia, Adelaide Festival Centre, etc. The city holds more than 900 restaurants, pubs, and cafés clearly making it a culinary paradise. 

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A glimpse of the festival city_©
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An exquisite culinary experience_©httpsstudyadelaide.comwhy-adelaidelife-in-adelaidefood-and-culture.jpg
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Art emphasis on a facade_©Al Toetu.jpg

The Architecture of Adelaide: A Clinging Contrast

Adelaide is an ethnically diverse city. It has immigrants from over 14 countries. Adelaide has been rewarded with the title as one of the most livable cities in the world, tracing back to its context; what makes it so attractive is the harmony that hugs the city. The places and the people of Adelaide have a lot of contrast yet they peacefully coexist in harmony. This clinging contrast, a beautiful blend of the old and new. 

A friendly difference between the green botanical gardens and parklands on one side and the central business district on the other. Adelaide’s architecture is a melting point of differences. It is a diverse palette ranging from age-old churches, universities, and markets to newly built contemporary architectural paradigms.

To classify its structures and point out the contrast between the characters, let us group the buildings into categories. Let’s call it side A and side B, like two sides of a cassette; and both play a melodious tune in harmony.

Side A: The Vintage Charms

1. Art Gallery of South Australia

The Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) was instituted in 1881. It is the most remarkable visual arts museum as it flaunts a collection of over 45,000 artworks. The structure was designed in the Classical Revival style by C. E. Owen Smyth, and was constructed by Trudgen Brothers. It was initially built with an enclosed portico, followed by refurbishments in 1936 that consisted of an open Doric portico and a new facade.

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A vintage facade with columns adorning_©

2. St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral

St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral that is identified as a Gothic Revival building in the Early English style. The tower stands 56.5 m long, 36 m high, and is 29.5 m horizontally. It consists of a bell that took more than a century to be materialized and completed by Ar. Lynton Jury.

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The tower that took 109 years to be completed_©Rabogna

3. The Ayers House Museum

It is a resilient, invaluable mansion that was once the finest Victorian-era dwelling. Initially, it was a small cottage, the site involved in numerous stages to reach the splendour spot it holds. This structure allows its visitors to experience and relish one of the finest Victorian experiences, from absorbing the living room conversations to dinner tales in the dining room.

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The Ayers House Musuem_©Bashundhara
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Marvellous Victorian styled dining hall_© 

4. Adelaide Central Market

Adelaide Central Market is an 1870 structure that hosts over 70 marketeers under one roof. It has undergone a series of demolitions and additions, and stands as a prime point in Adelaide’s everyday life. The facade itself is a significant feature that makes it stand apart in the existing context.

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The restored facade_©

Side B: The Contemporary Tune

1. National Wine Centre of Australia

The National Wine Centre of Australia is an exhibition space for the public, educating them about winemaking and its industries. It functions as a permanent exhibition that curates interactions about varieties and styles of wine and winemaking. It also has a wine tasting space, providing visitors the experience to taste and compare wines from different regions of Australia.

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National wine centre of Australia_©

2. The Oval

The oval is a stadium that is typically used for cricket, but it has been a ground to host several other sports as well. It is highly picturesque and has been termed as one of the most contemporary stadiums. The dimensions of the oval changed to 183m x 134m post the 2014 re-development.

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The Oval_©

3. Samstag Museum

Samstag Museum of Art is a structure that belongs to the University of South Australia. It is a noteworthy creative centre established in 2007. Samstag is a space of changing exhibition programs of contemporary visual art focusing on history and the future in an equitable manner. 

It is designed by John Wardle Architects partnered with Hassell, the structure is located in the Hawke Building and highlights three meaningful exhibition galleries over two levels.

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A modern facade with reflecting glass strips_©

4. Flinders University Museum of Art

FUMA was instituted in 1978 with the intent of the Council of Flinders University to house a multiplying collection of art. The Museum was constructed on the efforts of its academic staff, Alan Flashtig (Head of Fine Arts), Robert Smith (inaugural Fine Arts Lecturer), and Donald Johnson (Architectural Historian), and Amzad H. Mian (Curator) observed its construction in 1974-75.

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An expression of contemporary art_©

Adelaide is a melodic juxtaposition with countless contrasts amicably blending into a city that is adored. The architecture as well as its culture dances into various nuances creating a collage of an utmost inhabitable environment. Adelaide has a mellifluous tune of clinging contrast.


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2. (2013). Museum Of South Australia Kaurna exhibit. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

3.Hill, C. (1836). The Proclamation of South Australia 1836, Charles Hill. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

4. (2016). Celebrating Art and Culture with the Adelaide Festival. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

5. (2019). Food Culture. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

6.Toetu, A. (2019). Adelaide Arts and Culture. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

7. (2017). Art Gallery Of South Australia Logo. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

8.Rabogna (2011). Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Cathedral Adelaide. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

9.Bahudhara (2015). Ayers House (a museum, function centre and restaurant owned by the National Trust South Australia) North Terrace, Adelaide, early morning. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

10. (2019). glorious family dining room, Ayers House Museum. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

11.Adelcentralmarket (2018). The restored facade of the Adelaide Central Market. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

12. (2011). National Wine Centre Enters Its 10th Year. Available at:×169.jpg [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

13. (2020). SA Premier Steven Marshall describes Adelaide Oval as “the best cricket oval in the world”. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

14.Bilby (2008). The Hawke Building on North Terrace, Adelaide at the UniSA City West campus. The Samstag Museum is located on the first two levels of the front corner of the building. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].

15. (2016). Flinders. Available at: [Accessed 29 Apr. 2021].


Vajjrashri Anand is an architecture student who reads places and people like a story worth being told. She believes architecture is a lot like life; made of wonder, beauty and hurt. She strives to constantly evolve. A nuisance, a delight. A sting, a smile. She's a soul hugging one word at a time.