Queenslander Architecture

23 Jun
A high-set Victorian era Queenslander with large varandah in New Farm, Brisbane. A large Federation style suburban Queenslander in New Farm, Brisbane. An interwar Queenslander in New Farm, Brisbane.
     
Queenslander (or Old Queenslander) architecture is an architectural style common throughout Queensland, Australia. It is also found in the northern parts of the adjacent state of New South Wales. The style was common from the 1840s through to the 1960s and used mainly for residential construction, although some commercial edifices such as hotels were also built in the similar Victorian Filigree style, found throughout Australia.

Characteristics

Queenslander buildings are identifiable by large verandahs and large double doors which open onto these verandahs. They are typically raised on vertical “stumps,” made of timber or concrete. The use of timber stumps was banned in the mid 1950s and any replacements must now be steel or concrete. The stumps served two purposes, firstly to elevate the houses for ventilation and secondly to protect them from floodwaters, as well as termites and other pests. Queenslanders are always constructed of mostly wood, although some are restored with prefabricated plastic cladding. In the days before air-conditioning, it was designed to increase air-flow throughout the house by way of large doors and windows, which lined up internally. This is so that the air literally passes through the house, rather than entering through one window and stagnating in the room. Roofs are generally made of corrugated tin or iron, and external walls are sided with timber, often painted in mild pastel colours. Raising the house on stumps meant the under floor area could be used for an old form of refrigeration. A net would hang from under the house, away from the sun, drenched in water. Meats and milk could be stored there for short periods of time (up to a day or two) and kept relatively cool. Floors are generally wooden throughout the house, as is the rest of the construction. Windows are often louvred to allow for air circulation during Queensland’s frequent rainstorms, frosted to diffuse and soften the harsh tropical sunlight, or both. Commercial buildings and houses built by wealthier people often feature elaborate wrought iron ornamentation such as balustrades.

Typically, this design is most suited to the sub-tropical climate of Queensland, an area with average temperatures in the range of 23-36 degrees Celsius, although it is not uncommon for the temperature to be much higher in the Summer.

History

Owing to their simplicity of construction, standardised designs were produced through the 1920s and 1930s. Despite these advantages, tastes changed and the style fell out of favour after the second world war. The need for cheaper homes first saw large verandahs reduced to small landings. Subsequently internal walls were no longer made of timber and were made of fibreboards, such as asbestos sheeting or fibre/gypsum panels. Additionally, after the war, surplus military earthmoving equipment became common and it was then possible to cheaply prepare sites for construction and the relative cheapness of construction on stumps diminished. These factors led to the adoption in Queensland, as elsewhere, of the ubiquitous “modern” American style, usually single level and usually sold as a combined land and home package. These newer homes are usually made with a timber frame but with a brick veneer.

Ashgrovian

Ashgrovian is the term coined for a variation of the Queenslander built between the late 1920s and World War II in the suburb of Ashgrove in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The term Ashgrovian was coined from the prolific number of these dwellings constructed in the Interwar period and was an adaptation of the Bungalow style which was popular in the early parts of the 20th century. Extremely popular with middle-income earners, these dwellings were almost always fronted with a grand gable roof, often surrounded by secondary smaller gables behind. The smaller gables usually sheltered verandahs and sleep-outs. A staircase almost always dominated the front yard leading to the verandah which in later years was commonly filled in to form extra rooms. Other late additions included projecting bay or box seat windows usually centrally located in the front of the house.

Current

Many old Queenslander buildings, both residential and commercial, have been demolished to make way for more modern buildings, particularly in the inner urban area of Brisbane contributing to Brisbane’s gentrification. However, community awareness of urban heritage has seen local governments implement conservation measures to protect the unique ‘tin and timber’ character of neighbourhoods and towns dominated by Queenslander architecture. While master-planned housing estates are indistinguishable from those in other states, many custom-built homes are designed in a more modern version of the Queenslander style, particularly holiday houses in coastal areas.

Highrise

Some elements of Queenslander house architecture can be found in some highrise buildings. Early highrise buildings had narrow balconies that were mostly used for cleaning the outside of windows. In Queensland, highrise balconies gradually evolved to become wide outdoor living spaces of the quality of verandahs and the back decks of Queenslander houses.

The Regatta Hotel in Brisbane is a commercial building in the Victorian Filigree style, not a Queenslander per se, but well suited to a subtropical climate.
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