The Traditional Queenslander Home

To some eyes, Queensland’s distinctive wood and tin homes gave Brisbane, and other Queensland cities and rural areas, a somewhat temporary, insubstantial air. Known as ‘Queenslanders’, they seemed a little less solid and permanent than those built of brick or stone. Many Queensland houses were placed high in the air on tall stumps, as the supporting piers were always called, and seemed likely to simply fly away.

The Queensland house was comparatively inexpensive when trees were plentiful, easy to transport, and, in a relatively stable climate, single skin, unlined walls were all that were considered required to protect dwellers~people~the dwellers within} from the cold. Sturdy corrugated iron roofs withstood 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 may have been passing during the steamy summer. Shades outside window openings meant that windows didn’t need to be quickly shut when humidity brought rain. Cleverly placed little revolving tin cylinders on the roofs pulled out hot air that filled ceiling spaces through decorative fretwork openings.

Although timber isn’t a particularly effective insulator for either heat or cold, air could flow down the 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 opposite side. The exterior of some houses were painted, others were just oiled. Some verandahs were built with elaborate and expensive iron lace; others made do with simple timber dowels and carved timber decoration in pediments over front entrance.

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 large, sprawling dwellings. The pattern of the Queenslander home could be translated into early types of kit-set houses.

Many were created by companies in Brisbane and transported long distances as flat-packs on trains. Selections of verandahs, tongue and groove boards for walls and sheets of corrugated iron for roofs were ready at their destination for assembling. The public housing movement that produced workers homes adapted the basic materials to varying 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After the war, the Queenslander seemed out of date in a world of modem architecture.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 to 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 other Australian capital cities.

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