Author Davina Jackson. Pic Lyn Taylor


Lyons Terrace, one of Sydney’s first rows of multi-storey houses, was built near the corner of Liverpool and College streets beside today’s The Connaught apartment building, opposite the souther end of Hyde Park. Artists George Edwards Peacock 1849. Photo courtesy of the State Library Of New South Wales.
Henrietta Villa, built by Captain John Piper at today’s Point Piper, was the neo-classical scene of the colony’s most extravagant parties during the 1820s. Artist Richard Read Junior 1820. Photo courtesy of the State Library Of New South Wales

Davina Jackson’s AUSTRALIAN ARCHITECTURE is more than a history of buildings and their designers. It is a history of Australia seen through structures from 60,000 years ago to current times. She describes the Aboriginal structures, including drawings of the construction techniques of the huts and gunyah. Included are the early paintings and drawings of Aboriginal dwellings, made by the second settlers, the artists who came with the ships.

Congratulations to the book’s designer, Liz Seymour. Each page is a pleasure to look at. With so many illustrations, captions and topics, the design of the book was a complicated puzzle Liz solved. There are over 300 illustrations, well-captioned and referenced. There are three double-page spreads with 14 architectural types on each, illustrating and describing styles from classical Greek to a neo-modern building at Barangaroo. These helpful spreads are a quick guide to world architecture styles and put in context how our buildings were influenced. 

The book includes commercial buildings, public housing, convict camps, universities, churches, clubs, constructions at Norfolk and other islands, kit buildings, train stations, the Snowy Mountains structures, park visitor centres, the 2000 Olympic sites, streetscapes and even Datatexure, ground-penetrating radar to discover long hidden structures. Nothing seems to have escaped Davina’s attention. She describes the difficulties with the 1960’s metric conversion, and the way architects again changed their methodology when  computerised design became available. She doesn’t hold back on the difficulties of regulating the building industry. In the quirkily titled chapter ‘Institute for Barnacles and Burglars’, she describes kickbacks, fee diddling and dodgy architectural competitions.

AUSTRALIAN ARCHITECTURE is not just a comprehensive architectural history. It is a social history of Australia and how our buildings shaped our lives. The writing is clear and structured. The parenthetical identifications of previous buildings and sites at today’s locations is helpful and informative. Through them, the contemporary reader can imagine the settings and influences of the buildings described. They vivify the book. 

Davina has spent a lifetime researching Australian architecture and architects. She edited Architecture Australia for many years. She is a  founding ‘member’ of the annual city light festival in Sydney and Singapore. She was a Professor at the University of NSW and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Davina knows architecture. She knows how to write about it for the general reader, designers, architects, and historians. It is a wonderful book to enjoy chapter by chapter and an excellent reference book with a comprehensive index.


Publication Date: Feb 1, 2022

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

ISBN  : 978  1  76087 839 9

Review by Carol Dance

Featured image : Refurbished ceiling from the Capitol Theatre in Melbourne designed by Walter and Marion Griffin