Queensland Art Gallery: Brisbane’s architectural landmark


Australia’s most outstanding concrete public architectural works have recently been chosen from a judging panel comprising some of Australia’s best-known architects and building experts with Robin Gibson’s Queensland Art Gallery among Australia’s top 10 most outstanding and distinctive architectural landmarks in Australia. The structures selected from a list of 45 nominations based on architectural merit, innovation in the use of concrete and exemplar of time.

Gibson’s vision of Brisbane celebrating its river changed the face of the city’s South Bank waterfront, with the Gallery winning the Sir Zelman Cowan Award for the most outstanding public building in Australia when it opened in 1982. 

Queensland Art Gallery under construction, with architect Robin Gibson AO (left) and then Gallery Director Raoul Mellish, c.1981 / Photograph: Richard Stringer

Queensland Art Gallery from Victoria Bridge, Brisbane, 1982 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library / Photographs: Richard Stringer

The other nine structures, many modernist in style are Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House; Australia Square Tower by Harry Seidler and Associates; Roy Grounds Australian Academy of Sciences’ Shine Dome in Canberra; the High Court building in Canberra; Sydney’s Punchbowl Mosque; the Melbourne University Carpark; the Gladesville Bridge in Sydney (which was the longest single-span concrete bridge in the world when it was built in 1964); the Victorian State Offices, and James Cook University Library in Townsville.

The Queensland Art Gallery Watermall featuring Huang Yong Ping’s Ressort 2012 / Photograph: M Sherwood © QAGOMA
The Queensland Art Gallery Watermall featuring Ai Weiwei’s Boomerang 2006 / Photograph: N Harth © QAGOMA
The Queensland Art Gallery Watermall featuring Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus garden 1966/2002 / Photograph: N Harth © QAGOMA

The selection was based on three criteria: Architectural Merit (the form, function and structure of the building); Innovation in the use of concrete as a material, as a structure, and aesthetically; and finally, Exemplar of the time, which determined whether the project redefined and expanded concrete’s potential.

The publication of the Top 10 List marks the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the organisation that represents the heavy construction materials industry, Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA), August 26, 2019

Elliott Murray is Senior Digital Marketing Officer, QAGOMA

Featured image: Queensland Art Gallery / Photograph: Richard Stringer


  1. Recalling visits to the old Queensland Art Gallery as a child, Picasso’s ‘la Belle Hollandaise’ portrait greeted guests as we stepped into the foyer. That building, still standing, is wierdly beautiful with its red brick walls and spires. For those of us who became art teachers in the 1970s, the curriculum included architectural studies, so we watched with interest when QAG came into being in its new location and it’s modern architectural design floating in sympathy with its riverside site. Thoroughly chuffed to read this news that resonates with our generation of visual art teachers.

  2. Perhaps Brisbanes’ best “public” room: the water mall in the Queensland Art Gallery.