10 Architecture Sites to See When You Study Abroad in Sydney

May 20, 2014 10:47:20 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Architecture can reveal key stories about a city's past or hold a vision of its future. Some of the most architecturally interesting structures are obvious, but other times they are easy to miss. Today, we take a journey through Sydney, one of CAPA's global cities, to check out some of the architecture you should be sure to see when you study abroad.

1. OPERA HOUSE. The Sydney Opera House is Australia's most recognizable building and serves as the focal point of Sydney Harbour. Its architect was the Dane Jørn Utzon, whose innovative design (inspired by his love of the ocean) won an international contest in 1957. While construction was originally meant to be completed within seven years, it was not until 1973 that the site was officially opened to the public with a ceremony led by Queen Elizabeth II. In these sixteen years of construction numerous controversies arose over the cost of materials and labour – the original cost was estimated at $7 million but had risen to $102 million by the Opera House’s completion. These extra costs are now deemed worthwhile, as the high quality of the materials used ensure that the Opera House will be preserved for visitors for many centuries to come. Inside, you'll find several performance venues, a recording studio, cafes, bars and one of Sydney’s most prestigious restaurants. The Sydney Opera House was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

Photo: Sydney Opera House by Christopher Flint

2. HARBOUR BRIDGE. Affectionately known as the ‘Coat Hanger’ by Sydney locals, the Harbour Bridge is one the world’s largest steel arch bridges, serving to connect Sydney’s central business district with North Sydney. The Harbour Bridge includes lanes for motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, while the more adventurous can opt to traverse the top of the bridge with the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. The Harbour Bridge’s arch serves as a spectacular background to Sydney’s renowned New Years Eve fireworks displays.

Photo: Harbour Bridge by davidmonro

3. THE ROCKS. The Rocks refers to Sydney’s oldest neighborhood, originally considered a slum, but now one of Sydney’s most affluent and sophisticated districts. The area is peppered with narrow alleys, cobblestone streets and hidden staircases, and features colonial Georgian architecture. Some particular points of interest include Bunkers Hill (a wealthy residential area in the 1820s), the Argyle Stairs (Australia’s oldest sandstone steps, built by convicts) and the Susannah Place Museum (an historic museum contained within a block of four terrace houses that were inhabited by the urban working class from 1844 to 1990).

Photo: Argyle Stairs by Michael McGimpsey

4. LUNA PARK. Luna Park is an amusement park located next to the north side of the Harbour Bridge that features Art Deco designs. A giant open mouth serves as the entrance to the park; the design of this mouth was inspired by a combination of Balinese temples, Italian sculpture and New York City high rise buildings. Inside the park are numerous murals and attractions designed by various prominent Australian Pop Art artists. A visit to Luna Park ensures typical amusement park entertainment within a setting of fantasy architecture.

Photo: Luna Park by Nicki Mannix

5. QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING. Referred to as the QVB by locals, this Romanesque style building was designed to be extremely elaborate in order to provide employment for a large number of craftsmen who were out of work during a severe recession in the late 19th century. The center ceiling forms a glass and copper-sheathed dome, while other impressive features include stained glass windows, a spiral staircase, tiled floors as well as numerous arches, pillars and balustrades. While the QVB originally housed a concert hall, showrooms and offices, it is now home to some of Sydney’s finest retailers.

Photo: Queen Victoria Building by M Kuhn

6. UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY - CAMPERDOWN CAMPUS. The University of Sydney’s Camperdown Campus has been ranked as one of top ten most beautiful university campuses by many media sources, alongside older universities like Cambridge and Oxford. The Quadrangle is perhaps the most impressive building on the campus, designed by Edmund Blacket out of sandstone in the Neo-Gothic style and set upon a small hill. The campus is covered in jacaranda trees, which bloom a distinctive purple flower in the spring and create the perfect setting for a picnic in the shadow of the Quadrangle. The Law School and the Institute Building are both well worth a look as well.

Photo: Quadrangle building at the University of Sydney by J. C. Merriman

7. ONE CENTRAL PARK. While technically still under construction, this huge development houses a three floor shopping center as well as hundreds of offices and private apartments. With an emphasis on green living, the development features vertical gardens, extensive solar paneling and floor-to-ceiling glass towers that allow for the maximum amount of light to enter. Part of the shopping center’s ceiling is made up of a clear, giant heated swimming pool, so don’t forget to look up and sneak a glance at swimming residents of Sydney’s most unique luxurious apartment complex.

Photo: One Central Park by Rob Deutscher

8. GOVERNMENT HOUSE. This structure was built in the Gothic Revival style in the mid 1800s to serve as a residence for the Governors of New South Wales. It is decorated with oil portraits and coats of arms of all its occupants, as well as a significant collection of 19th and 20th century furnishings and artwork. The Government House overlooks the Royal Botanic Gardens (a 30-hectare botanical parkland) and the Opera House.

Photo: Government House by Stefan Jürgensen

9. ST. MARY'S CATHEDRAL. Located in Sydney’s central business district, the Gothic Revival style of St Mary's Cathedral sets a stunning juxtaposition to its modern urban surroundings. Prominent features include twin spires, intricate carving and stained glass windows. The cathedral’s crypt has a mosaic floor that shows the Days of Creation and the titles of the Virgin Mary set against a Celtic illuminated manuscript.

Photo: St. Mary's Cathedral by Emmett Anderson

10. 1 BLIGH STREET. This address houses an office building that is distinguished by its 6 Star Green Rating. The egg shaped hole in the center of the building is not only stylish, but allows for a natural flow of air. Additional green features include a glazed and naturally ventilated winter garden space at ground floor level and a basement sewage plant that recycles 90 percent of the building’s waste water. Heating is provided for by solar panels on the roof and external louver blades that automatically adjust depending on their orientation to the sun, while air conditioning is provided by chilled beams.

Photo: 1 Bligh Street by Chris Hearne

Do you have a favorite piece of architecture in your own city or abroad? Tell us about it in a comment!

Topics: Sydney, Australia