In the early decades of European settlement, Adelaide Architecture was used as a public relations tool to project an impression of stability and prosperity to potential immigrants and investors in Britain. The legacy of that campaign can be seen among the colony’s early building stock, a high proportion of which is well designed, but rarely venturing outside orthodox English Victorian taste. The formality of that taste, combined with the geometric juxtaposition of urban subdivisions and parkland which is William Light’s legacy, gives much of Adelaide and North Adelaide a character unlike that of any other Australian city. George Strickland Kingston produced a number of distinctive public buildings and private houses with the Mediterranean climate in mind, but had little continuing influence; official and commercial buildings by architects such as Edmund Wright and Thomas English were almost always in one of the Victorian classical revival styles.
Collaboration between Wright and Edward Woods produced some notable designs, their Town Hall and GPO clock towers which frame the northern entrance to Victoria Square providing one of the more dramatic statements of South Australian architecture. Domestic architecture was mostly in stone, and not strikingly different from that of the eastern capitals, except that less pressure for land meant that there are few terrace houses in Adelaide. Most ecclesiastical architecture was conventionally gothic, enlivened by the strength of dissenting Protestantism with its rejection of the gothic style favoured by the Church of England; hence such striking buildings as the mannerist Congregational church on Brougham Place, North Adelaide, and the large Baptist churches at North Adelaide and suburban Leabrook, Norwood and Semaphore. Before high-rise buildings came to dominate the skyline, Adelaide was often known as the ‘city of churches’, reflecting the visual prominence of church towers in a very flat city. There has probably never been a time when Adelaide had more churches than hotels, but ‘city of pubs’ was not an image that the colonial fathers encouraged.