National Heritage Places - Australian Academy of Science Building

Australian Capital Territory


The low-slung copper dome of the Australian Academy of Science near the centre of Canberra was recognised as a milestone in the Australian construction industry when it was built in 1959. The dome's innovative structure, designed by one of the most prominent Australian architects of the time, Sir Roy Grounds, reflects the bold modernism of the period.

The Academy of Science is open for inspection by appointment or during open days throughout the year. It was included in the National Heritage List on 21 September 2005.


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 Michael Lindquist  Michael Lindquist Academy of Science Dome

More information

Australian Academy of Science Building with its modernist dome has become an architectural landmark. Its seemingly weightless shape provided a striking contrast to the heavy concrete buildings of the same period.

Australia's largest dome

When constructed, it was large by world standards and larger than any dome in Australia. Its weight is anchored by the surrounding water-filled moat making it an extremely stable structure. The selection of materials and the design and finish of its interior contribute to the impact and importance of this award-winning building.

Textbook architecture

The building is believed to be the only true example in Australia of Geometric Structuralism - an architectural movement that used tension to maximise the function of the structure. When constructed, the dome made a confident statement about the post Second World War development of Australia's scientific community. This community included such luminaries as the distinguished scientist, Sir Marcus Oliphant, veterinary scientist, Dr Ian Clunies Ross, and explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson.

Australian architecture in the 20th century

Australia's fashions in architecture and engineering have been influenced by overseas trends since European settlement began in 1788. In the 20th century, traditional architectural boundaries were challenged and new ways of doing things explored. Architecture from this period, both in Australia and overseas, bears testament to this time of experimentation.

In the late 20th century architects, engineers and planners in Australian capital cities were among the first to find and introduce innovative architectural ways of expressing community, corporate and business optimism, in both private and government sector projects. This transformation gained momentum as Australia emerged from the Depression and two world wars.

Relevant links

Australia's National Heritage - Academy of Science Building (PDF - 727.13 KB)

Australian Academy of Science Building factsheet (PDF - 520.47 KB)

Australian Academy of Science Building factsheet (RTF - 2.55 MB)