Blazing hot days punctuated by teeming afternoon downpours: there’s a meteorological rhythm to summer in Queensland that situates it firmly in the tropics. Among other things, it’s given rise to a distinct style of architecture known as the Queenslander, immediately recognisable by its steep pitched roof, timber frame and, of course, a wrap-around verandah that surely ranks as one of the most inviting places to curl up with a good book.
With all eyes on Queensland for the coming Commonwealth Games, now is a time to celebrate the state’s most iconic dwelling. In fact, the mid-19th century origins of this style closely coincide with Queensland becoming a state in its own right (it had previously been part of New South Wales). It’s still one of Australia’s most distinct styles of architecture, and original Queenslanders remain highly coveted today.
Lindy Osborne, Senior Lecturer of Architecture at QUT cites the Queenslander as an example of “vernacular architecture”: “one that has evolved over time in response to local climatic, environmental, building resources and cultural human needs”. The Queenslander ticks all these boxes and then some. They were typically raised off the ground on stumps, which improved ventilation, provided safety from both rising flood waters and attacking termites, and allowed the houses to be built on hilly terrain with minimal excavation. (Detractors grumble that the elevation coupled with wooden floorboards inside also let in icy cold wind during winter, to which we say: does Queensland really have a winter?)
Inside, the homes generally feature a long central corridor (all the better to maximise a flowthrough of breeze when summer’s afternoon southerlies hit), with rooms branching off left and right. The trademark verandah and the space beneath the house both epitomise the concept of bringing the outdoors in (and vice versa) and were often used as extra rooms, ideal for hanging washing or setting up a camp bed on an oppressively hot night.
Although the Queenslander’s signature features have remained constant, other details have ebbed and flowed with changing architectural trends: bay windows were added during the Federation period and gables became more decorative during Arts & Crafts. In spite of these trend-driven flourishes, there’s a timelessness to the Queenslander that exists in few other suburbs across Australia. These are dwellings with a past that stand tall for the future.
Written by Michelle Bateman