BMA Building - 135 Macquarie Street Sydney

Commercial Architecture Sydney

Commercial Architecture Sydney is not characterised by any one architectural style, but by an extensive juxtaposition of old and new architecture over the city’s 200-year history, from its modest beginnings with local materials and lack of international funding to its present-day modernity with an expansive skyline of high rises and skyscrapers.

Under the tenure of early nineteenth-century Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the works of Francis Greenway were the first substantial buildings for the fledgling colony. Later prominent styles were the Victorian buildings of the city centre created out of local Sydney sandstone, and the turn of the century Federation style in the new garden suburbs of the time.

With the lifting of height restrictions in the post-World War II years, much of central Sydney’s older stock of architecture was demolished to make way for modernist high rise buildings. Some of the most notable new buildings were designed by the Austrian-Australian architect Harry Seidler, as well as by international architects such as Jørn Utzon, Jean Nouvel, Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster or Frank O. Gehry.

Victorian aspirations for respectability, formality, and materialism were compounded in Sydney by colonial yearning for respect, which in architecture resulted in the copying of imported styles, mostly from Great Britain. New wealth and rapid increase in population came with the 1850s gold rush. A new middle class emerged who wanted homes, cities and public buildings that matched their new wealth and social status and construction of high quality buildings such as churches, commercial and public buildings, and ostentatious houses of the wealthy boomed. On the other hand, housing for the working and lower middle class remained substandard and the prevalence of unhygienic and slum conditions grew.

In the 1860s, architecture in Sydney focussed more on style than consideration of the building’s function in relation to its setting and climate. An increase in Italian immigrants influenced residential construction which manifest itself in a growing popularity of surface ornamentation, plasterwork, squared massing, arcades and loggias, and square towers.