To some people, Queensland’s familiar wood and tin houses lent Brisbane, and other Queensland cities and rural areas, a somewhat temporary, insubstantial air. Known as ’A Queenslander’, they seemed a little less solid and permanent than homes built using brick or stone. Many Queensland houses were placed high in the air on tall stumps, as the supporting pillars were always known as, and seemed likely to simply fly away.
The Queensland house was comparatively cost-effective when trees were plentiful, easy to transport, and, in a relatively stable climate, single skin, unlined walls were all that were thought to be necessary to protect dwellers~people~the dwellers within} from cold. Stout corrugated iron roofs withstood heavy tropical rain and was re-usable if moved by cyclonic winds.
Verandahs sheltered people from burning sun and caught any breeze that might be passing during the steamy summer. Coverings over window openings meant that windows didn’t need to be quickly shut when humidity brought rain. Clever 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 against either heat or cold, air was able to flow down the long central hallways in a 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. Some exteriors were painted, others were just oiled. Some verandahs were built with elaborate and expensive iron lace; others simply with timber dowels and carved timber decoration in pediments over front stairs.
Despite the air of seeming impermanence, the Queenslander 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 large, sprawling dwellings. The pattern of the Queenslander home could be translated into the early forms 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 their destination for assembly. The public housing movement that produced workers homes adapted the materials to various 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After the war, the Queenslander seemed out of date in a world of modem architecture.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 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.