Building in Western Australia

The story of Western Australian architecture and building reflects similar developments in the rest of Australia and the world.

Throughout the twentieth century changing trends in local architecture were influenced as much as by new construction techniques as by social needs.  By the early 1900s the use of modern building materials and methods adapted from Great Britain and the United States had enabled the construction of taller office and public buildings.  From Federation to the Second World War these were built in a number of styles. Classical, monumental and art deco features gave these modern structures decorative facades, hiding elements such as steel girders and frameworks.

After 1945 the influence of the Modern Movement in architecture brought with it a whole new aesthetic - one of functional steel, aluminium, concrete and glass.  The introduction of these minimal, modern designs rejected the decorative or ornate and championed the forms of the new materials in which buildings were constructed.  In the second half of the twentieth century Western Australians, in their haste to embrace the future and build a modern society of skyscrapers, destroyed much of their architectural heritage.  City skylines and streetscapes were markedly different, and the only reminders we have left of this past are the images held in the Battye Library.

Residential architecture also underwent considerable changes during the twentieth century influenced by evolving social needs, and to a lesser extent developments in building materials and techniques.  Without doubt the driving force in the twentieth century residential architecture has been the suburban dream which has seen the State's major city grow into a huge suburban sprawl.  The dominance of the automobile in suburban Western Australia has influenced not only residential design but also the use and design of those public buildings, like shopping centres, built to service them.

Recent  housing developments in inner-city areas reflect a move towards higher density living by some Western Australians, however at the end of the twentieth century suburbs, now constructed behind exclusive walls and marketed as a lifestyle choice, continue to be the most common form of housing development.  The types of housing constructed to meet this demand have been transplanted throughout the State with very few regional buildings indicating any unique regional characteristics.

The emergence of architectural styles in Western Australia is presented decade by decade, even though there are often overlapping influences and different styles of building exist side by side in 2001. 


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