Queenslander

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am
 

The stereotypical Queenslander is seen largely as right-wing and with a penchant for pumpkin scones, cane-toad ashtrays and an infamous beer called XXXX. However, other Queenslanders - the houses - represent the most quintessential architectural style of the region.

Originating in the mid-19th century, the Queenslander continues to influence a generation of architects interested in creat- ing lightweight dwellings that are suited to the tropical climate of northern Australia.

'The Queenslander is one of the few forms of Australian architecture that actually responds to its climate,' says Brian Steendyk, of Brisbane-based studio Steendyk.

The defining element of the Queenslander is how it is raised above ground on wooden posts, allowing air to flow beneath and provide a cooling effect on balmy summer days. The elevation also protects the home from the voracious termites that are prevalent in the tropics and allows flood water (also common in the state) to flow harmlessly beneath the structure.

From a construction point of view, the use of timber stump foundations means there is no need for expensive site levelling.

Steendyk says the typical Queenslander is based on a 'four-square' plan: essentially, a central corridor with two rooms on either side. The homes are usually built from local timber, typically hoop pine, which is easy to mill. Roofs are steep-pitched - nearly always sheeted in corrugated iron - to deflect the heavy tropical downpours.

Inside, floors are made from polished timber, making them cool underfoot. Internal walls are also made of timber, with boards placed vertically. Breezeways above internal doors allow air to move around the house and usually incorporate ornate fretwork.

Thanks to these design elements, the Queenslander achieved a high level of cross-flow ventilation during an era when such terms had not yet been invented. Even today, people live comfortably in century-old Queenslanders without the need for air conditioning.

On hot summer nights, the occupants of Queenslanders can be seen sitting on their wide front verandahs, which are sometimes enclosed by latticework for privacy and sun control. This creates what is known locally as a 'sleepout' - an outdoors refuge in which occupants can rest comfortably under mosquito nets.

Although Queenslanders have common elements, they still come in many shapes and sizes, and were built in whatever style was in vogue at the time. It's not unusual to find a Queenslander with federation features or even elements of art deco.

Sadly, Queenslanders fell from favour after the second world war, owing to a lack of available materials, the need for cheaper homes and changing tastes that saw the arrival of the single-level brick-veneer project home - something utterly unsuited to tropical climes.

In recent years, Queenslanders (the people) have fallen back in love with Queenslanders (the homes) and, thankfully, many of the original houses are now protected by heritage orders.

It's about time.

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