The Traditional Queenslander Home

To some people, Queensland’s familiar timber and tin houses gave Brisbane, and other Queensland cities and towns, a rather temporary, insubstantial air. Known as ’A Queenslander’, they seemed so much less solid and permanent than those of brick or stone. Many Queensland houses were placed high in the air on tall stumps, as the supporting piers were always known as, and it was fancied they seemed likely to simply fly away.

The Queensland house was comparatively cost-effective when wood was plentiful, easy to move from place to place, and, in a relatively calm climate, single skin, unlined walls were all that were thought to be necessary to protect dwellers~people~the dwellers within} from cold. Sturdy corrugated iron roofs stood up to heavy tropical rain and was re-usable if moved by cyclonic winds.

Verandahs sheltered people from the burning sun and also caught any breeze that might be passing in the steamy summer. Coverings over window openings meant that windows did not have to be closed when humidity brought rain. Clever little revolving tin cylinders on the roofs removed hot air that filled ceiling spaces through decorative fretwork openings.

Although timber isn’t a particularly effective insulator against either heat or cold, air could flow through long central hallways in the typical Queensland house and also across the house from an open window on one side through open doors to the open window on the other side. Some exteriors were painted, others were simply oiled. Some verandahs were completed with elaborate and expensive iron lace; others made do with simple timber dowels and carved timber decoration in pediments over the front stairs.

Despite the impression of seeming impermanence, the Queensland house has survived since its first appearance in the mid-nineteenth century. However, it has evolved. The simple two-room or four-room cottage has given way to much larger, sprawling dwellings. The pattern of the Queenslander home could be translated into early forms of kit-set homes.

Many were created by companies in Brisbane and transported long distances as flat-packs on trains. Collections of verandahs, tongue and groove boards for walls and sheets of corrugated iron for roofs were ready at the destination for assembly. The public housing movement that produced workers cottages adapted the ingredients to differing shapes and sizes suitable for lower-cost housing.

After the war, the Queenslander seemed out of date in a world of modem architecture. Brick houses, American ranch style residences and other imported styles began to populate new suburbs. However, Brisbane is a hilly city and even modem designs often adapted the idea of stumps so that houses could be close to the ground near the top of a rising allotment and high where the ground sloped away. In the late twentieth century, the old materials, tin and timber, were given new currency by innovative architects to create distinctly modem, light and airy Queensland houses.

In the 1970s and 1980s, when a drift back towards the inner suburbs attracted the attention of a new generation, old Queenslanders were discovered by younger owners. They painted them lovingly and added various renovations to bring an old favourite into the modem era.

However they originated, whether from sugar planters houses in the West Indies, bungalows in India or high houses in Malaysia, the Queenslander still distinguishes Brisbane from the other Australian capital cities.

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