University of Adelaide Walking Tour, Adelaide

University of Adelaide Walking Tour (Self Guided), Adelaide

Established in 1874, the University of Adelaide is the third oldest university in Australia. Its main campus on North Terrace, nestled in the cultural heart of the city, adjacent to the Art Gallery of South Australia, the South Australian Museum and the State Library of South Australia, contains some of Adelaide's most iconic and historically significant buildings.

As the earliest home of the University, North Terrace offers insight into the unique history of UofA. The moment you step in through the campus gates, you can see that the rich history here comes hand in hand with architectural elegance.

Bonython Hall (the great hall of the university) is one of the many historic buildings located at the North Terrace campus. Others include the Mitchell Building (the university's very first facility, home to the vice-chancellor's office), Elder Hall (an iconic conservatory of music, named after one of the university's great benefactors, Sir Thomas Elder), and the cathedral-like Reading Room of the Barr Smith Library. Also notable are the Union Buildings, aka Union Building Group, comprising the Lady Symon Building, the George Murray Building, the Cloisters, Union House and the Western Annexe.

Whether you're a history buff or a regular tourist, you'll enjoy the unique atmosphere created by these and other heritage-listed sites all the same. To discover the beautiful main campus of South Australia’s first, and still top, university, take this self-guided walk.
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University of Adelaide Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: University of Adelaide Walking Tour
Guide Location: Australia » Adelaide (See other walking tours in Adelaide)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: Jane
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Bonython Hall
  • Adelaide Elder Conservatory of Music
  • Mitchell Building
  • Walter Hughes Statue
  • South Australia Art Gallery
  • South Australian Museum
  • Adelaide State Library
  • Migration Museum
  • Union Building Group
  • Barr Smith Library
Bonython Hall

1) Bonython Hall

Bonython Hall is the University of Adelaide's main ceremonial hall. It was constructed in 1936 from a design by architect Woods Bagot in the Gothic architectural style. The beautiful and imposing building is used for graduation events, puclic lectures and special ceremonies.

Bonython Hall was made to look as though it had been in place for many years. To acquire this feat, Bagot used Murray Bridge limestone and slate roof that was quarried from Willunga.

The building was named in honor of Sir John Langdon Bonython who donated the funds to construct the building. Bonython was a member of the Australian Parliament and a well-known journalist and editor. It is said that Bonython donated the funds on the condition that it be built opposite Pulteney Street in order to prevent a thoroughfare from being built that might divide the university campus.

It is also rumored that Bonython required the building be constructed with a sloping floor in order to avoid any dancing. The Bonython family were very conservative and did not want the building used as a dance hall.
Adelaide Elder Conservatory of Music

2) Adelaide Elder Conservatory of Music

The Elder Conservatory of Music, also known as "The Con", is Australia's senior academy of music, named in honor of its benefactor, Sir Thomas Elder. Dating back to 1883, it has a distinguished history in the intensive professional training for musical performance, musical composition, research in all fields of music, and comprehensive music education. The Elder Conservatory of Music and its forerunners have been integral parts of the University of Adelaide since the early 1880s.

Principal areas of study and specialization include Classical performance, Jazz performance, Composition, Musicology and Ethnomusicology, Music Education, and Music Technology. The Elder Music Library is the largest music library in the Southern Hemisphere, containing just under 30,000 books, over 5400 journal volumes, over 120,000 music scores and around 22,000 sound recordings.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Mitchell Building

3) Mitchell Building

The very first facility of South Australia’s very first university – the Mitchell Building of The University of Adelaide (established 1874) – was meant to be designed by James MacGeorge, who won the architectural competition for it in 1877. However, the ultimate selection of the architect proved somewhat scandalous, as MacGeorge was replaced by Melbourne-based Michael Egan, who was then replaced by William McMinn and Edward John Woods. While McMinn is largely credited for the project, much of its design apparently was based on Egan’s work.

The foundation stone of the building was laid on 30 July 1879 by Governor Sir William Jervois. Two years later the edifice accommodated first classes, while still under construction. It was finally completed in 1882 and was praised for its Gothic design, described by The South Australian Weekly Chronicle as “thoroughly academic”.

This building housed all of the University of Adelaide’s faculties and activities until the completion of the Elder Conservatorium in 1900 and the Prince of Wales Building in 1902.

In 1961 it was named in honour of Sir William Mitchell, one of the university’s first philosophy academics, who also served as the university’s vice-chancellor from 1916 to 1942 and its chancellor from 1942 to 1948.
Walter Hughes Statue

4) Walter Hughes Statue

The statue of Sir Walter Watson Hughes commemorates one of the founders of the University of Adelaide and its first donor. The dark bronze sculpture of Hughes, displaying him seated relaxed in a chair set upon a large pedestal of Murray Bridge granite, is found outside the historic Mitchell Building on the University campus. The monument was created by Queen Victoria's favourite sculptor, Francis Williamson, and funded by Hughes's nephews.

Sir Walter Watson Hughes, who, prior to his knighthood was frequently addressed as "Captain Hughes" (referring to his being a master in merchant navy with years of service spent on whaling expeditions in the Arctic), was also a pastoralist and public benefactor. Born in Scotland in 1803, Hughes emigrated to South Australia in 1840 where he started business and took up land.

In 1872 Hughes donated £20 000 for the needs of higher education in South Australia, which led to the establishment of the state's first (and Australia’s third) university two years later. Frequently referred to as the "father" of the University, he founded the Chairs of Classics, English Language and Literature, as well as Mental and Moral Philosophy.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
South Australia Art Gallery

5) South Australia Art Gallery (must see)

The South Australia Art Gallery is a visual arts museum with over 45,000 works of art. It is the second largest art collection in Australia after the National Gallery of Victoria. The South Australia Art Gallery was established in 1881 with purchased items as well as a number of pieces lent by Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales.

Though the museum was founded in 1881, the building didn't open until 1900. It was designed by C.E. Owen Smyth in the Classical Revival architectural style. The open Doric portico was added in 1936 when the building was expanded. Other extensions were added in 1962, 1979, 1981 and 1996.

The permanent collection consists of Australian art that includes indigenous and colonial artwork, silverware, furniture and photography. It also holds works by European artists like Goya, Francesco Gaudi, Camille Pissarro, Anthony van Dyck and Thomas Gainsborough.

Sculptures from the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Rodin are also included. As part of its revolving exhibits, the museum hosts the annual Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art.

The South Australia Art Gallery is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. It is closed on Christmas day. Entry is free for all patrons though some special exhibits may have fees.
South Australian Museum

6) South Australian Museum (must see)

The South Australian Museum is a natural history museum that was established in 1856. The museum holds an exhibit that has more than 4.5 million objects. It sees more than 1.1 million patrons per year.

The museum has a large number of permanent galleries. Among these are galleries featuring ancient Egypt, Australian Aboriginal cultures, megafauna, opal fossils, South Australian biodiversity and indigenous artefacts. The museum is said to contain the largest number of Aboriginal artefacts in the world with more than 30,000 objects. It also has the largest collection of Erlikilyika carvings in the world.

The Aboriginal art and culture is slated to split from the natural history exhibits in the near future. The new Aboriginal cultural center will be held in the old Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Visitors to the museum will find the exhibits spread across five floors. They will also have access to a cafe, coffee hut and museum shop. The museum is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. It is open on all public holidays except Christmas and Good Friday.
Adelaide State Library

7) Adelaide State Library

The Adelaide State Library, also known as the State Library of South Australia or the Public Library of South Australia, is the largest public research library in the state. Construction of the building began in 1866 but wasn't completed until 1884. It was designed by the Brown and Thompson architectural firm in a French Renaissance style with a mansard roof.

The interior of the Mortlock Chamber of the library has two galleries. One is supported by masonry columns and the other by cast iron brackets. The interior is also adorned with wrought iron and gold that is lit by natural light by the glass-domed roof. The exterior walls are made from brick and Manoora stone. The Mortlock Wing is often considered one of the world's most beautiful libraries.

The library offers a gallery that has permanent exhibitions both inside and out. This includes the Story Wall, numerous memorials, Ernabella rugs and the Kaurna Greeting Stone.

Visitors may explore the library, including the gallery and the Mortlock Chamber on Monday and Tuesday from 8 AM to 7 PM, Wednesday through Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM or weekends from noon to 5 PM.
Migration Museum

8) Migration Museum

The Migration Museum is a social history museum in Adelaide that deals with the immigration and settlement history of South Australia, and maintains both a permanent and a rotating collection of works. Founded as an initiative of the State government in 1983, and with the museum opening on 23 November 1986, the Migration Museum is the oldest of its kind in Australia.

The museum is housed in a complex of early colonial blue-stone buildings set around a courtyard, including Adelaide's former destitute asylum (from 1850 to 1918), a place where the homeless of the city (men, women and children) were kept out of sight of the well-off citizens. Prior to that, the site was the location of the Native School, which aimed to educate Aboriginal children.

The Migration Museum has a full program of activities including education programs for school groups, public events and family-friendly fun.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Union Building Group

9) Union Building Group

The Union Building Group is a complex on the Adelaide University campus that incorporates five buildings, namely: the Lady Symon Building (named after the wife of Sir Josiah Symon), the George Murray Building (named after George John Robert Murray, vice-chancellor and later chancellor of the university), the Western Annexe and the Cloisters (1920s-30s), and the multi-story Union House (1975). In essence, it represents two main phases in which the Adelaide University Union (AUU) was developed to provide services and facilities for students on the campus.

The earlier Georgian-style edifices (the Cloisters, the Lady Symon Building and the George Murray building) were designed by the architects Woods, Bagot, Jory and Laybourne-Smith in 1929 and 1937. Ultimately, they set parameters for the design of Union House, an award-winning development of 1975 by the prominent South Australian partnership of Dickson & Platten, noted for the quality of internal spaces and correlation with the earlier architecture.

The use of timber in large-scale structures and the high level of construction craftsmanship place Union House at the top of the buildings created by Dickson & Platten throughout the 1960s-70s. Union House accommodates practically everything that the AUU provides students, including, among other facilities, the UniBar and the famous Adelaide University Cloisters.

An architectural and cultural landmark of Brutalist style, the Union House (listed in 2002) is set to undergo rejuvenation over the next few years. This implies revamping and relocation of UniBar and the refreshment of the historic Memorial Cloisters (originally built as a monument to the University students who fought in WWI). Stage one of the project was completed in February 2019, seeing the Cloisters redeveloped to create a new and multi-dimensional UniBar and entertainment venue for students, staff and general public.
Barr Smith Library

10) Barr Smith Library

The Barr Smith Library is the main library of the University of Adelaide, situated in the centre of the North Terrace campus.

The library was named in honour of Robert Barr Smith who donated £9,000 to buy books. In 1920 his family gave an extra £11,000 in the form of an endowment and in 1928 his son, Tom Elder Barr Smith, gave £30,000 for the Barr Smith library building.

The Barr Smith Library was designed by Adelaide architects Woods, Bagot & Laybourne Smith and opened on 4 March 1932, with later additions to the main building being built from the 1950s onwards. The present entrance was constructed in 1984.

The library houses Rare Books and Special Collections and University Archives and Recordkeeping. It is also home to large collections across many subject areas including Australian history, politics and literature, English literature, world wars, socialism and fascism, women and gender studies, utopian literature, and food studies. Specialist collections include the Music Collection, East Asian Collection, Yaitya Ngutupira and Recreational Reading. Level 2 of the library is home to the large and opulent Reading Room. The High Use Collection and study spaces on level 3 can be accessed 24/7.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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