Better than the Sydney Opera House? Australia's 10 other coolest buildings

To the outsider Australia has amazing beaches, mind-blowing outback adventure, fabulous wine and gorgeous wildlife. But architecture? Nah, forget about it – it's just the Sydney Opera House, isn't it?

Well, it turns out that Australia does have buildings worth looking at beyond Jørn Utzon's most notorious creation. And maybe it's time to go look at them in person…

The Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne

Royal Exhibition Building.

Royal Exhibition Building. Photo: Roberto Seba/Tourism Victoria

Australia's first world World Heritage-listed building has an Italianate look from the outside, with its long white wings and dome modelled on the cathedral in Florence. But look a little closer and the joy comes in the eclectic pilfering ideas by architect Joseph Reed. There's a bit of Romanesque, a bit of Byzantine, a bit of Renaissance in there, and it has been standing proud since 1880. See

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne.

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne. Photo: Jake Roden/ Visit Victoria

Another big hitter from Melbourne's golden age, the Flinders Street Station as we know it today replaced a ragtag collection of buildings. The somewhat exotic Edwardian statement piece goes unashamedly over the top with its domes, arches, clocks and towers. The original French Renaissance-style building designed by James Fawcett and H.P.C. Ashworth underwent several massive alterations, so it's hard to credit the station as a coherent vision. But its status as Melbourne's meeting place means it'll always be viewed affectionately by Melburnians.

Federation Square, Melbourne

Tennis Fans watching the Australian Open Tennis at Federation Square.

Tennis Fans watching the Australian Open Tennis at Federation Square. Photo: Rob Blackburn/Tourism Victoria

Of course, Flinders Street Station now has a rival for favoured meeting space. Federation Square stands directly opposite, angular and defiantly unsymmetrical. The buildings look like giant, unfinished Rubik's Cubes updated with a 22nd century army camouflage colour scheme, but the impact is generally in how it all hangs together. See

Rose Seidler House, Wahroonga, NSW

Rose Seidler House, Wahroonga.

Rose Seidler House, Wahroonga. Photo: Alamy


Harry Seidler's works have a habit of dividing opinion, but Rose Seidler House is generally accepted as a striking emblem of international modernism. Key distinctive elements include an elevated ground floor, reached via ramp and glass walls designed to bring the outside inside. But the setting is important, too – it looks jarringly unnatural against the surrounding native bushland. See

Parliament House, Canberra

House of Parliament in Canberra.

House of Parliament in Canberra. Photo: Alamy

Opened in 1988, Australia's new Parliament House is designed to be symbolic, being loosely built around two boomerang shapes. But it's also built into a hillside, making it part of the country. (We'll gloss over the fact that the hillside was largely constructed around it). The sloping lawns were originally there to let the Australian people walk all over their politicians, but terrorism concerns have seen crash barriers installed in front of them. See

The Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, SA

Adelaide Oval.

Adelaide Oval. Photo: Tourism SA

Getting a massive stadium to have even a smidge of charm and flair is tough going. To do it as a revamp of a beloved, quirky cricket ground is even harder. But the new look Adelaide Oval has pulled off the trick, keeping the grass bank and rickety old scoreboard from the previous incarnation, while adding a series of gently curving, scallop-shaped roofs. See

One Central Park, Sydney

One Central Park, Sydney.

One Central Park, Sydney. Photo: Alamy

The centrepiece of Chippendale's rejuvenation is sprinkled with starchitect magic. Foster and Partners, plus Jean Nouvel, worked on different parts of it. It has won plenty of awards for environmental friendliness, but what really sets it apart from generic glass skycrapers are the light-reflecting cantilevered heliostat and the lush, green vertical gardens clambering down several stories. See

The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, Sydney

The Goods Line and

The Goods Line and the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, Photo: Anna Kucera/Destination NSW

Getting Frank Gehry to design their business school was a big thing for the University of Technology, Sydney. The Canadian architect has knocked up some genuinely stunning buildings around the world, from Chicago to Prague. Gehry's trademark waves come courtesy of 320,000 custom-made bricks. And despite accusations of it looking like a crumpled paper bag, it has already become the main landmark of Sydney's Goods Line. See

The Shine Dome, Canberra

The Shine Dome, Canberra.

The Shine Dome, Canberra. Photo: Alamy

One of the greatest architecture styles is Buildings That Looked Futuristic At The Time, and this certainly applies to the Australian Academy of Science's boisterously hemispherical Shine Dome. Built in 1959, this concrete dome with a series of entrance arches at the bottom looks like an alien spaceship has landed and spread its tentacles. Then, it probably looked Space Age. Now it looks lovably dated. See

Sacred Heart Church, Beagle Bay, WA

Sacred Heart Church.

Sacred Heart Church. Photo: Tourism WA

That most beautiful church? Well, it's arguably in the middle of nowhere. Amongst the red dirt of the Dampier Peninsula, a bumpy old drive down often corrugated roads from Broome, this alarmingly white affair was modelled on a parish church in Germany. The German influence comes from the World War I internees who were corralled away in Beagle Bay. But it's the remarkable interior that shows the Indigenous influence – it is decorated in shells, with generous doses of mother of pearl.

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