top of page

Previous Page: Queenslander Style   Next page: Interwar Housing Styles

Federation Free Style [c1890-c1915]
Pyrmont Fire Station NSW

Right: Built in 1906, the Federation Free-style Pyrmont Fire Station at 145 Pyrmont Street was designed by NSW government architect Walter Liberty Vernon – one of more than 50 of his projects between 1890 and 1911. [3]

Pictorial Guide to ID Aust Architecture ISBN 9780207185625

Federation Free Style [c1890-c1915]


Turn-of-the-century architects had problems designing commercial premises using the domestic styles of Federation, and Federation Arts and Crafts.

  • Thus the adoption of 'Federation Free' styles, allowing the architecture of domestic styles to apply to larger buildings as well.

This style is remarkably only defined by the book "A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture" by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.

(Buy this book secondhand from Biblio or from Abebooks, was $49.95)


They write that:

"Federation Architects were not unduly concerned with advanced technology;

  • they sought to design honestly with traditional materials while avoiding being shackled by stylistic dogmas from the past...

  • In Australia, the greatest volume of Federation Free Style work came from the office of the NSW Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon" [1]


"By definition, a 'free style' is not unduly constrained by rules, and Federation Free Style is no exception.

  • Designers did not hesitate to use asymmetrical planning and massing,

  • Classical elements, if used at all, were frequently distorted, incomplete or placed in an unusual context.

  • Touches of Art Nouveau were often introduced, especially in the lettering applied to the facades of buildings." [2]

Gallery of Federation Free Style

Gallery of Federation Free Style

“Throughout the Victorian and Federation periods, Academic Classical and Free Classical styles co-existed, which is to say that some buildings were more correctly classical than others."


Federation Free Style was a flow-on from the Victorian period.

  • This style includes modern simplicity without a full panoply of columns, pilasters, entablatures and pediments

  • This style also includes distorted or unfamiliar uses of classical elements and proportions.

Gallery of Perth's Federation Free Style
bottom of page