Public Architecture: Backdrop To The Public Realm


Public architecture; buildings constructed for public use that help form the backdrop of our cities. These buildings affect the way we live and work around them.

They are the buildings that play important roles in everyday public life.

Here we look at five of Australia's most spectacular buildings within the urban realm.


Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law by Architectus and Guymer Bailey Architects

Completed in 2012, the Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law in Brisbane were designed by Architectus and Guymer Bailey Architects.

This 64 000 square metre courthouse, built on the Queensland Place site, bounded by George, Roma and Turbot Streets in Brisbane’s CBD houses 39 courtrooms covering both civil and criminal jurisdictions, chambers for 69 judges, a library and courts administration facilities.

The design maximizes the use of daylighting to all the courts, public waiting spaces and offices through a sophisticated system of glazed walls and layered screens which surround the perimeter of the building, and vary according to the internal functional requirements of the adjacent interior space.

The result is a light open courthouse, comprised of generously scaled and simply detailed internal spaces of dignity and presence.

The glassy facade is screened and punctuated by outdoor decks with sky gardens, breaking down the scale of the building and allowing fresh air and breakout spaces to the inhabitants.

The inclusion of internal and external gardens and courtyards throughout the building responds to the character of the sub-tropical environment.

The design also contributes positively to the urban realm of the city, creating a major new public square for Brisbane.


Surry Hills Library and Community Centre by Francis-Jones Moreham Thorp (FJMT)

Designed by FJMT the Surry Hills Library and Community Centre is located in inner-Sydney.

This innovative new building provides specific services tailored to community needs and includes an integrated local library, community centre and child care centre.

A laneway adjacent to adjoining shops provides vertical access and, along with the spiral library stair, creates spatial zones that both link and contrast the horizontal work environments.

Establishing a new Australian standard of excellence for environmentally sustainable design in civic buildings, the building includes: use of planting together with a thermal network for passive filtering and tempering of air; incorporation of extensive natural light; solar-tracking timber louvre systems; automated fabric shading; mixed mode ventilation; extensive photovoltaic array; geothermal cooling bores; green roof; rainwater collection and recycling; and sustainable material selection.


Translational Research Institute by Wilson Architects and Donovan Hill


is conceived as a series of interconnected places to enable a community of research.

Designed by Wilson Architects

and Donovan Hill, the research centre at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane enables both the intensity of scientific research and a range of opportunities for collaboration.

The 8-storey 40 metre high building has seen the research institute re-imagined as an enlarged subtropical house.

From the intimate to the expansive, the building acknowledges the diverse communities that make up TRI.

The often functional and featureless laboratory is elevated as a very human place for people who work at the highest level in the pursuit of scientific discovery.

Careful fabrication of the building gives a crafted finesse to a setting which has an industrial set of expectations.

Materials are warm and natural, lighting is soft and glowing, plants cascade and cosy sitting areas are placed at every possible location.

The level 2 entry level also houses the University of Queensland School of Medicine and School of Nursing and Midwifery.

The school provides a number of seminar spaces, training rooms and state of the art problem based learning spaces.

It also has a 24 hour student lounge which has a strong visual and physical connection to the landscaped outdoor room.

AAMI Park by Cox Architecture


in Melbourne was designed by Cox Architecture.

It provides residents and visitors with a first-class facility that embodies a pioneering approach to public architecture and in turn public life.

The design responds to its unique location through its integration of the multi-code sports campus, providing a stadium that is easily accessed by spectators and highly utilised by elite players and clubs.

The activated relationship to the streetscape, the civic-scaled entry stairs, and the flanking urban plazas all integrate the stadium into its landscaped context, providing a strong visual connection to the city, river and parklands.

A key philosophy was to provide the perfect seating bowl, with seats rising up to optimise the preferred east and west flanks with excellent sightlines and proximity to the action, while allowing close seats for the goal end fans at north and south.

This form was articulated in a series of bays to maximise the sense of theatre and engagement that is so important to creating great events.


Barcaldine Tree of Knowledge Memorial by Brian Hooper Architect and m3architecture

Barcaldine Tree of Knowledge Memorial is located in Central Western Queensland.

Barcaldine Regional Council commissioned a memorial and the architects, Brian Hooper Architect and m3architecture, created a structure that commemorates, represents and respects the tree, inspiring visitors to consider the significance of this event and this place.

The building has several civic roles.  Re-instating the plaza around the tree re-establishes the location as a place of public gathering.

The shape of this internal canopy is defined by approximately 3,600 individual timber members.  All timber is recycled and third party certified for chain of custody.

The presence of the building creates a gateway to Barcaldine as it forms part of the railway station’s entry sequence.

At night, it acts as a lantern for the town.

The architects have also enhanced the structure of the original tree, exposing the root ball below ground in a way that goes beyond preservation.

The scale of the structure and the form created within, is based on the extent of the tree’s canopy between 1890 and 1905.

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