The Traditional Queenslander Home

To some people, Queensland’s familiar wood and tin homes lent Brisbane, and other Queensland cities and rural areas, a somewhat temporary, insubstantial air. Known as ’The Queenslander’, they seemed so much less solid and permanent than those built of brick or stone. Many Queensland houses were perched high in the air on tall stumps, as the supporting pillars have been called, and it was fancied they seemed likely to simply fly away.

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

The verandahs sheltered people from the burning sun and also caught any breeze that might be passing during the steamy summer. Coverings outside window openings meant that windows did not have to be quickly shut when humidity brought rain. Cleverly placed little revolving tin cylinders on the roofs pulled out hot air that had been drawn into ceiling spaces through decorative fretwork openings.

Although timber is not a particularly effective insulator against either heat or cold, air was able to flow down long central hallways in a typical Queensland house and 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 just oiled. Some verandahs were completed with elaborate and expensive iron lace; others made do with simple timber frames and carved timber decoration in pediments over front stairs.

Despite the air of apparent impermanence, the Queenslander has survived since it first appeared in the mid-nineteenth century. However, it has evolved. The simple two-room or four-room cottage has given way to much larger, sprawling homes. The pattern of the Queenslander house can be translated into the early types of kit-set houses.

Many were created by companies in Brisbane and transported long distances almost as flat-packs on trains. Selections of verandahs, tongue and groove boards for walls and sheets of corrugated iron for roofs were ready at the destination for assembling. The public housing movement that produced workers homes adapted the materials 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 fell 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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