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Published July 10th 2018
Why is so much modern architecture bland and boring?
The Lavishly Decorated Dome on the Russian Orthodox Church at Parkside
Architectural domes have long been seen as icons of grandeur, symbolising power and heavenly or celestial connections. In western traditions, the dome is usually the upper half of a sphere: other cultures elongate or subtly alter the shape of the dome at times. A cupola is a common variation of a dome, and it too can be found in many configurations.
You can find great domes in many countries of the world. The United States Capitol dome is known the world over, as is the Taj Mahal dome, and the awesome domes at St Pauls Cathedral in London, Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, and St Peter's Basilica in Rome. The more modern Millennium Dome made world news at the beginning of the century but is now simply known as The O2.
A Grand Dome on The Adelaide Jubilee Exhibition Building in 1910
There are a surprising number of curious Adelaide domes. They are complemented by an eclectic collection of charismatic cupolas, particularly on Victorian-era buildings. These architectural features enrich our view of the city - compare them with the soporific sameness and quasi-cubic characteristics of most modern buildings.
Let's take a tour of domes in Adelaide. Some no longer exist, but there are still many to be found when you look. Perhaps the grandest dome in Adelaide was on the magnificent Jubilee Exhibition building, completed in 1887 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Victoria's coronation. The dome was topped by a gilded cupola 140 feet above street level, and its electric light could be seen at night from miles away. Many people regret the demolition of this architectural icon in 1962 to make way for the Napier building at Adelaide University.
A Dome Crowning the Sir Samuel Way Building Law Courts
The Sir Samuel Way building (once Charles Moore department store) houses law courts in Adelaide and is now topped with a splendid dome to lend the judiciary the gravitas they deserve. Perhaps it gives a cushioning effect when the judge hits the roof after a barrister misbehaves.
Parliament House in Adelaide was planned to have a large dome to crown the structure, but money ran out. However, you can still see a dazzling dome inside the building if you take a tour. There is a similar beautiful feature inside the old railway station, now the Casino. But pull out a camera, and jackbooted bouncers will be onto you quicker than flies at a barbeque.
Historic Adelaide Arcade is crowned with a dome or cupola, one of its most impressive architectural features. However, it's behind the scenes that you will discover even more curious and startling secrets from South Australia's past.
The Turreted Dome on Neidpath North Adelaide (Image: State Library SA B6015)
There are many unusual houses in Adelaide, and Neidpath at North Adelaide is quite unique, replete with a turreted dome. Surprisingly it hasn't been demolished and replaced by Tuscan townhouses yet, because it almost qualifies as one of the castles of Adelaide.
Crowning Cupolas on Former West's Coffee Palace or Austral Stores
If you take one of the tours of the old hospital, you will see the heritage listed octagonal Sheridan building. Once a kiosk and later a volunteer centre, look carefully and you will see it is capped with a dome. Of course, domes are not unique to Adelaide - don't miss Frenchman's Rock if you visit Kangaroo Island, a century-old dome protecting a heritage treasure.
A Cute Cupola on The Railway Hotel in Peterborough, South Australia
Also in regional South Australia, the Railway Hotel is one of the Peterborough attractions in the mid-north of the state. Its cute cupola inspired a feeling of confidence and prosperity for travellers looking for a place to stay.
Once the Local Heritage Brecknock Hotel, Now Citi Zen Restaurant
The former Brecknock Hotel in Adelaide was once a Mecca for local Irish on St Patrick's Day. It is now Citi Zen restaurant, and also boasts a cupola on the corner. It's almost the same design as was once on the Esplanade Hotel at Brighton, but that feature has long gone.
Churches and mosques are another common place to find domes and cupolas. The beautiful dome on the Russian Orthodox church eclipses the minaret at Parkholme Mosque for size, but does size really matter?
Have you spotted any dazzling domes or quirky cupolas in Adelaide? We're always on the lookout for more curious Adelaide domes - please let us know in the comments if there are some we have missed.
Great article, Dave. I think it's a real shame that most modern architecture is either boring or just downright ugly. I love the fact that architects and designers of even prosaic and utilitarian buildings of the past, took the trouble to also make them beautiful. Our architectural heritage is much richer for it.
Hi Dave, Thanks for the article summary of dome architecture. I value the old and new styles. Our skyline is certainly changing. My other pick of Adelaide domes would be the iconic Palm House in Adelaide Botanic Gardens. But don't think I can post a photo here?