Houses for Queenslanders of small means?: Workers' dwellings in old Coorparoo Shire, 1910-40

Rechner, Judy (1998). Houses for Queenslanders of small means?: Workers' dwellings in old Coorparoo Shire, 1910-40 M.A. Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Rechner, Judy
Thesis Title Houses for Queenslanders of small means?: Workers' dwellings in old Coorparoo Shire, 1910-40
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1998
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 253
Language eng
Subjects 310000 Architecture, Urban Environment and Building
Formatted abstract
This is the first quantitative and comparative study of the changes and evolution in styles of Queensland's vernacular housing between 1910 and 1940. The primary research question is: What are the changes that occurred? Secondary questions include: When did these changes happen, and why? To this end, analysis concentrates on a sample of houses in a geographical area, based on extant Coorparoo Workers' Dwellings, government archival material, and contemporary and modern sources.

Under Queensland's first public housing scheme, Workers' Dwelling applicants took out a mortgage fi^om the state to build an architect-designed home on their own land. This process generated the official records, which form the backbone of this research. Of the 19,058 Workers' Dwellings erected in Queensland fi"om 1910 to 1940, nearly 10 percent (1,094) of Brisbane's 11,603 Workers' Dwellings were in the former Brisbane local government area of Coorparoo. This locality had the requisites of vacant freehold land and public transport for applicants during eras of development and depression in Queensland. Moreover, fluctuation in numbers of Workers' Dwellings built in Coorparoo reflects the pattern for Queensland as a whole.

To ascertain what are the main changes in style, a classification based on the style changes of Coorparoo Workers' Dwellings is devised and tested. Style is defined as a group of houses sharing common physical characteristics that relate to each other and together form a whole structure, the main elements being roof form, verandah detail and decorative embellishment. Twelve broad classes are distinguished: Class 1, Colonial, for old-fashioned styles; Classes 2 to 4 for those with a bungalow roof core; Classes 5 to 9 for styles having a gable roof core; and Classes 10 to 12, covering a 1930s evolution which used a hip core, a hybrid grouping, and all of those styles imported from overseas which were not adapted to the Queensland environment.

Each class has various sub-categories based on a chronological order related to change. The full names for these subdivisions indicate the modification or evolution in form or feature within each class, such as changes to verandahs and/or more complex roof forms. Changes in feature include modification to decorative elements of verandahs, addition of sleepouts and introduction of innovative details like window boxes.

Evolution of features and styles is a gradual process. Like any fashion such changes have life cycles - an innovation is introduced and if successful may come into vogue for a while. This analysis includes when they occurred and the time frame.

Various causes may be considered to explain these changes: broad contextual factors such as social, economic, political, cultural and technical developments and architectural trends; the legislative and administrative framework affecting Workers' Dwellings; and the contribution of architects and clients. This thesis concentrates on specific causes pertaining to the Workers' Dwellings Scheme, its implementation, architects and clients, while alluding to developments that are more general and contextual.

Workers' Dwelling architects had to implement administrafive policy while satisfying their clients. At the same time they were aware of architectural trends: the 1920s fresh-air fad resuhed in sleeping verandahs; promotion of the Californian Bungalow in the 1920s created new styles and saw adaptation of its features to older styles; and architectural concepts of modernity and the austerity of the 1930s produced radical new designs and the elimination of decorative features.

On the other hand, applicants for Workers' Dwellings were closely involved in the planning process. From reading contemporary magazines and newspapers, looking at Workers' Dwellings publications, and viewing houses in their locality, they were also aware of home fashions.

Though a complex combination of causes was involved, in the end the desires of clients and architects for modern homes was the major factor that drove the changes in styles of Workers' Dwellings between 1910 and 1940.
Keyword Architecture, Domestic -- Queensland -- Coorparoo.
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

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