Architecture | South Bank - Visit Brisbane


Some of the buildings at South Bank are more than 100 years old, while others were built as recently as 2012. The precinct’s architectural highlights are below. To see where they are located, check out the South Bank map.

The Ship Inn

The name of this ornate building reflects its history. The Ship Inn was built in 1864 during South Bank’s run as a bustling shipping area, and it quickly became a popular haunt for sailors. As South Bank has grown, so has The Ship Inn – it is now a well-known restaurant, bar and function space.

The Plough Inn

Built in 1885, The Plough Inn originally served as a hotel and eatery. It was constructed during South Brisbane’s commercial boom and was designed to reflect an era of prosperity. In 1988, The Plough Inn became part of World Expo ‘88’s festivities and today it operates as a prominent bar, restaurant and function space. 

South Brisbane Railway Station

Another historical gem, the South Brisbane Railway Station was also built an expression of prominence. It was completed in 1891 to accommodate Brisbane’s growing population and is still in use today. It is the second oldest railway station in central Brisbane.

The Arbour

The brain-child of architectural firm Denton Corker-Marshall , the Arbour is a 1km long installation made from 406 curling, galvanised steel posts, which are each clad in purple bougainvillea flowers. It was built in 1999 and provides a shaded walkway through the Parklands.

The Goodwill Bridge

The Goodwill Bridge is a 450 metre long footbridge that links South Bank to the city’s Botanic Gardens. It was devised by Cox Rayner Architects and its design is inspired by its surrounds – the angling and curvature of the bridge deck capture the vistas of the shoreline and Brisbane River, while the ramp approaches were devised to give the sense of being piers. It opened in 2001 and is named after The Goodwill Games, which here held in Brisbane that same year. 


Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC); State Library of Queensland; Queensland Art Gallery; and Queensland Museum and Sciencentre

These four buildings make up South Bank’s original ‘cultural centre’ and were all designed by Brisbane architect, Robin Gibson. The Queensland Art Gallery opened in 1982, QPAC opened in 1985, Queensland Museum and Sciencentre was finished in 1986, and State Library of Queensland was completed in 1988. Each of these buildings are comprised of off-white concrete cubic forms, deeply-recessed windows and stepped terraces. They are classic examples of Australia’s ‘brutalist’ architecture.


Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)

GoMA is the most recent addition to South Bank’s cultural precinct, having been completed in 2006. It was designed by Sydney-based company, Architectus. Unlike the other buildings in South Bank’s ‘cultural centre’ (which follow a linear orientation) GoMA is placed perpendicular to the Brisbane River. This orientation was chosen to create a seamless connection between GoMA and the rest of the city. The building has several other distinctive features including giant glass ‘public living rooms’ and open verandahs that are responsive to Queensland’s climate and conducive to creating an inviting public space. 

ABC Headquarters

The ABC Headquarters officially opened in 2012. It was designed by Richard Kirk Architects and was created with Brisbane’s climate in mind – the steel cladding on the exterior is common in tropical architecture and the building’s large glass windows let in large amounts of natural light. The building’s internal layout is extremely open and this was chosen to help create a sense of community in the building and to facilitate integration and collaboration between its users.

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (BCEC) Expansion

The original BCEC was completed in 1995, but due to increasing need for greater space, it was soon extended. In 2012, the BCEC Expansion was officially opened to the public. Designed by Cox Rayner Architects (who also designed the original building), the expansion spans five levels and is in direct contrast to the original building. This contrast was intentional, to show off the building’s evolution and show how it has been responsive to different contexts and times.

River Quay

Brisbane-based architects, Arkhefield, were behind River Quay’s design. The finished product celebrates Queensland’s sub-tropical lifestyle with its outdoor rooms and use of verandahs, while the building’s twisted, folded and cantilevered roofs capture the shifting movements of the Brisbane River. River Quay officially opened in 2011.