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Dissertation abstract

Colony and Climate: Positioning Public Architecture in Queensland 1859-1909

PhD diss., University of Melbourne, 2010
Stuart King
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Stuart King, Colony and Climate: Positioning Public Architecture in Queensland 1859-1909, PhD diss., University of Melbourne, 2010

Entrées d’index

Index de mots-clés :

bâtiment public

Index by keyword :

public buildings

Indice de palabras clave :

edificio público

Schlagwortindex :

Öffentliches Gebäude

Parole chiave :

edificio pubblico

Index géographique :

Océanie, Australie, Queensland
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Texte intégral

1This dissertation provides an in-depth account of late 19th-century public buildings in the former British colony of Queensland (1859–1901), which is now a state of Australia. One intention has been to address the lack of any sustained, critical account of these buildings, as a group, within the broader construction of Queensland’s written architectural history. To date, that history has been dominated by examinations of the traditional Queensland house, broadly regarded as a tropical bungalow. This absence and imbalance is not only a problem for Queensland, but also the wider history of the region and globally. The study is thus proceeded with a broad-based discussion of the full scope of Queensland public buildings, encompassing the most prestigious and symbolic government buildings located in Brisbane (the capital of Queensland), through to smaller buildings in developing towns and modest timber structures extensively deployed to the remote settlements of the colony. The key issues under consideration are the representational imperatives of the various Queensland colonial governments, institutions and individuals responsible for the conception, design and construction of public buildings, as well as the shifting nature of the physical and discursive environments of a rapidly developing colony and attendant exigencies of place, most especially that of a climate associated with Queensland’s sub-tropical and tropical environments.

2Beyond addressing absences in the history of Queensland architecture, the project’s historiographic significance lies in the study of the formation of a colonial architectural culture in Queensland, with implications for other formerly independent Australian colonies and British colonies elsewhere. A specific task in this respect has been the un-packing of local, regional and global connections acting alongside the contingencies of the colonial environment, to reveal the complexities of an emerging architectural culture at the edge of empire.

3In 1859, the Colony of Queensland was separated from New South Wales as an independent, political entity within the British Empire. Queensland was the youngest of the independent Australian colonies, all of which shared a British heritage. It also shared a convict past with those of Tasmania and New South Wales, in contrast to the freely settled colonies of Western Australia (granted responsible government, 1829), South Australia (1842), and Victoria (1851). However, in contrast to all earlier colonies, the British Imperial Government constituted Queensland with the provision for immediate parliamentary self-government and economic self-sufficiency. Financial autonomy meant that the new colony was immediately thrust into competition with its colonial peers and, within this context, architecture was immediately drawn into the construction of a “corporate” colonial identity for the Queensland Colonial Government.

4Further particularities affecting architectural developments include the scale of the former colony (approximately eight times the size of the British Isles or three times the size of France) and its late development within the Australian context subsequent to the introduction of mechanised transport including railways and steamships. This meant that in contrast to New South Wales and Victoria, Queensland’s initial patterns of settlement were highly decentralised with coastal towns scattered along its coast, increasingly competing with each other, as well as the capital, Brisbane. For public building this meant a thin spread of resources that were highly politicised, particularly with the growth of internal separatist movements.

  • 1 “The Climate of Queensland,” Moreton Bay Courier, 15 September 1860.

5Significantly for this project, Queensland was understood as different environmentally. The colony’s sub-tropical and tropical geographies placed its development within the wider expansion of European colonial powers into tropical regions during the late 19th-century. Its establishment followed that of British colonies in the Caribbean and South Asia during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but preceded the expansion of British interests and formal colonial rule in Sub-Saharan Africa in the late 19th-century. Queensland thus developed in conjunction with an emergent knowledge of “tropical architecture” which encompassed planning, design, construction, ventilation, sanitation and technology, as well as debates about precedent and style enmeshed in the growth of tropical colonisation – experiences to which Queensland architects contributed and from which they also drew. A local climate discourse was quick to establish, documenting and promulgating the general health of the colony’s climate, alongside strategies for acclimatisation relating to diet, clothing and architecture. In parallel, Queensland’s environment was carefully positioned within both local and international arenas. In 1860, the September instalment of the Brisbane Courier’s “Summary for Europe” sought to dispel “the erroneous belief” that “the climate of Queensland is something akin to that of the Gold Coast, or a hotter place still, and that all the unpleasantness of 'life in India' have to be suffered here”.1

  • 2 Ralph Cilento, The White Man in the Tropics: With Especial Reference to Australia and its Dependenc (...)

6Meanwhile, public architecture was being posited as an agent of acclimatisation, through the apparently successful adaptations of European styles to the sub-tropics and tropics – a process and commentary that simultaneously revealed attendant anxieties concerning the environment. The Colony of Queensland occupied a unique position within the international context as the largest European settler colony located within the Tropics, posited in the 1920s as the “largest mass of a population settled in any part of the tropical world, and represent[ing] a huge, unconscious experiment in acclimatization”.2 As such, Queensland provides an important context in which to consider the 19th-century architectural responses of a British settler community in an unfamiliar tropical environment.

7The need for an immediate construction of a competitive political, economic and cultural identity for the colony – one that extended beyond the Australian colonial group – may be seen in the Queensland Colonial Government’s first major representative work, the Queensland Houses of Parliament, commenced within four years of separation. This project was heavily invested with the aspirations of the new colonial government, at the time seeking to establish Queensland’s regional pre-eminence at the intersection of trade between Southeast Asia and the Australian colonies. Conceived in parallel with the establishment of diplomatic and economic ties with European colonies in Southeast Asia, the building was clearly anticipated to create a distinct and authoritative image for the colony. A design was initially sought through competition, but ultimately developed by the Colonial Architect, Charles Tiffin, under the direct instruction of the Queensland Colonial Secretary, Robert Herbert.

  • 3 M. C. O’Connell, President of the Legislative Council, quoted in “Laying the Foundation Stone of th (...)

8Formally, Tiffin’s proposed design demonstrated a wider professional interest in the French Second Empire style applied to major public projects and allied to discourses of eclecticism in the early 1860s. This interest was cultivated and available in Queensland via an international architectural press, notably via the British journal, The Builder. The detailing of the facades deferred to the Italianate, Tiffin’s apparently preferred stylistic mode that he tailored to the full breath of the colony’s early government buildings, assisting in the establishment of a consistent image of colonial governance as settlement expanded. The contingencies of place were manifest in the adaptation of an honorific façade of tiered arcaded loggias and expressive use of local materials, including a soft pink sandstone used externally and Queensland timbers, internally. Through these manoeuvres, a progressive and flexible idiom reflected the collective aspirations of the colony. It mediated one of the fundamental dilemmas of the new settler society observed by the President of the Queensland Legislative Council, on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone: “We are a too young community to have any proud events of past history to refer back to; our hopes and our aspirations all point to the future”.3 In other words, the design re-defined and thus re-positioned the idea place, rather than simply associating itself with Europe.

Figure 1: Queensland Parliament House (Stage 1, 1865-78, designed by Charles Tiffin), Brisbane c.1881.

Figure 1: Queensland Parliament House (Stage 1, 1865-78, designed by Charles Tiffin), Brisbane c.1881.

Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg No. 96936, http://hdl.handle.net/​10462/​deriv/​72771

9With a more general focus on the full breadth of Queensland’s 19th-century public buildings, this dissertation is primarily based upon an archival investigation of the work of the Office of Queensland Colonial Architect – the agency responsible for the architecture of the Queensland Colonial Government. Understanding institutional relationships and personnel, while developing a picture of a culture of practice, is fundamental to the research. This context also serves to highlight the inherent diversity of (Queensland) colonial architecture challenging any simple framing of the body of work within binary discourses such as “centre/periphery”, “European/non-European”, or indeed “temperate/tropical”.

10Each Colonial or Government Architect brought a different intellectual and professional background that was manifest in the design of public buildings under their leadership. Charles Tiffin (Queensland Colonial Architect 1859-1871) was trained in Northern England in the late1840s and designed in a predominantly Italianate mode. His successor, FDG Stanley (1871-1881), was trained in an eclectic Scots mode in Edinburgh in the 1850s. Stanley’s prolific oeuvre, built over the course of the 1870s, links the building of Brisbane to his former Scottish context. His works spanned variants of classical and gothic traditions, at times fused in a syncretic eclecticism. In contrast, JJ Clark (1883-1885) brought his training and twenty-five years experience in the colonial public works department in the Australian Colony of Victoria, where a conservative classical tradition mediated the civic environments of that colony during the post gold-rush years of the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s. In Queensland, Clark deployed a similar classical regime of decorum, with the layered and arcaded pile of the Queensland Public Offices, Brisbane (1885-89), at its peak. The design was scaled and arranged in response to a current and future urban situation, as the rise of commerce re-shaped the colonial city with consequences for the architectural expression of the building. On the question of style, Clark asserted the propriety of the Italian Renaissance, drawing upon typological elements and details from conservative High Renaissance sources. Yet the actual choice and composition of elements also suggests that George Gilbert Scott and Matthew Wyatt’s completed Foreign Office, London (1862-75), may have been identified as a model allied to the ambitions of the Queensland Colonial Government during the prosperous period of the early 1880s. As in the case of the earlier Queensland Houses of Parliament, the work needs to be understood within multiple cultural, political, and economic connections and associations that operated locally, regionally and globally.

Figure 2: Brisbane General Post Office (1872, designed by FDG Stanley), Brisbane c. 1875.

Figure 2: Brisbane General Post Office (1872, designed by FDG Stanley), Brisbane c. 1875.

Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg No. 143672, http://hdl.handle.net/​10462/​deriv/​99348

Figure 3: Queensland Public Offices, Brisbane (Stage 1885-89, designed by JJ Clark), Brisbane c.1889.

Figure 3: Queensland Public Offices, Brisbane (Stage 1885-89, designed by JJ Clark), Brisbane c.1889.

Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg No. 36853, http://hdl.handle.net/​10462/​deriv/​85147

11Under the later leadership of Queensland-born Colonial Architect George Connolly (1886-1892) and AB Brady (1893-1922), in the new role of Government Architect & Engineer, changes in the administrative structure, along with a diminishing level of design influence on the part of a single Colonial or Government Architect, gave rise to the emergence of multiple design approaches from a younger generation of émigrés within the Department, notably John Smith Murdoch, Thomas Pye and GD Payne. At the turn of the century, Thomas Pye’s Lands Administration Building (1899-1905) was realised in a confident rendition of Edwardian Baroque. The elevational schema of Pye’s Queensland Lands Administration Building suggests the influence of William Young’s published designs for the Imperial War Office, London, yet adapted with deep-set colonnaded loggias, arcades and balconies, and generally more austere in its ornamental treatment. More widely, Baroque details were combined with an Arts and Crafts sensibility for minor wooden buildings, balancing representational and pragmatic needs of government buildings that were deployed across the small towns and remote settlements of the colony/state, thereby building a coherent image of governance connecting remote settlements within the networks of empire.

Figure 4: Lands Administration Building (1899-1905, designed by Thomas Pye), Brisbane c.1907.

Figure 4: Lands Administration Building (1899-1905, designed by Thomas Pye), Brisbane c.1907.

Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg No. 157803, http://hdl.handle.net/​10462/​deriv/​7752

Figure 5: Courthouse at Charleville (1897, attributed to JS Murdoch), Charleville, c.1916.

Figure 5: Courthouse at Charleville (1897, attributed to JS Murdoch), Charleville, c.1916.

Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg No. 48099, http://hdl.handle.net/​10462/​deriv/​144217

12To interpret design choices across a breadth of work, from the huge to the tiny, and to work across a multitude of styles, the research develops an understanding of the 19th-century idea of “appropriateness”. Appropriateness –defined in terms of design coherence, within individual buildings and in relation to their settings –offered a way of thinking about, or interpreting, the suitability of individualised design responses within the fullness of their physical and social contexts. It was not arrived at through any simple formulae, but instead by negotiating a matrix of concerns – a matrix able to flex depending upon the specifics of a given situation. Through appropriateness, discussions of style may thus be re-invested with an understanding of the creative processes of architectural design and located within the specific settings in which designs for buildings were realised. Varying strains of eclecticism, as seen in many of Queensland’s 19th-century public buildings, may also be understood as complex manifestations of choice, further bringing into relief the competing issues at stake in formulating design responses. Through this approach, the thesis further argues for multi-faceted, context-based interpretations.

13The 19th-century theoretical and professional discourses on appropriateness variously involved considerations of climatic influence on the history and adaptation of architectural styles. This specific aspect of the discourse thereby provides a framework to re-position climatic influences within a larger matrix of concerns within which designs for public buildings were generated, and thereby avoids risks of anachronistic interpretations on climatic responsiveness in architecture and the use of style. When viewed in this way, climate was consistently positioned as a factor not a driver in individual design responses, and for 19th-century civic buildings in Queensland climatic responsiveness was typically achieved through the adaptation of the known, rather than the adoption of the unknown. In this respect, the local discourse on climate provided architects and the settler community a framework to question received architectural orthodoxies in the face of the “new”. Crucially for the larger project of re-positioning Queensland colonial public buildings, local climate discourses were a part of wider European and inter-colonial discourses and networks of the late-19th century.

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Notes

1 “The Climate of Queensland,” Moreton Bay Courier, 15 September 1860.

2 Ralph Cilento, The White Man in the Tropics: With Especial Reference to Australia and its Dependencies, Melbourne: Department of Health Services, 1925, quoted in David Walker, “The Curse of the Tropics,” in Tim Sherratt, Tom Griffiths and Libby Robin (eds.), A Change in the Weather: Climate and Culture in Australia, Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press, 2005, p. 100.

3 M. C. O’Connell, President of the Legislative Council, quoted in “Laying the Foundation Stone of the New Parliamentary Buildings,” Brisbane Courier, 15 July 1865, p. 5.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Queensland Parliament House (Stage 1, 1865-78, designed by Charles Tiffin), Brisbane c.1881.
Crédits Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg No. 96936, http://hdl.handle.net/​10462/​deriv/​72771
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/402/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Titre Figure 2: Brisbane General Post Office (1872, designed by FDG Stanley), Brisbane c. 1875.
Crédits Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg No. 143672, http://hdl.handle.net/​10462/​deriv/​99348
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/402/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 36k
Titre Figure 3: Queensland Public Offices, Brisbane (Stage 1885-89, designed by JJ Clark), Brisbane c.1889.
Crédits Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg No. 36853, http://hdl.handle.net/​10462/​deriv/​85147
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/402/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre Figure 4: Lands Administration Building (1899-1905, designed by Thomas Pye), Brisbane c.1907.
Crédits Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg No. 157803, http://hdl.handle.net/​10462/​deriv/​7752
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/402/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Titre Figure 5: Courthouse at Charleville (1897, attributed to JS Murdoch), Charleville, c.1916.
Crédits Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg No. 48099, http://hdl.handle.net/​10462/​deriv/​144217
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/402/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 37k
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Stuart King, « Colony and Climate: Positioning Public Architecture in Queensland 1859-1909 », ABE Journal [En ligne], 2 | 2012, mis en ligne le 01 septembre 2013, consulté le 22 août 2017. URL : http://abe.revues.org/402 ; DOI : 10.4000/abe.402

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Auteur

Stuart King

Lecturer, University of Tasmania, Australia

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La revue ABE Journal est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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