15 Oct, 2018

Queensland verandah inspires lifetime of architectural practise


The Queensland verandah is recognised as one of the original icons of quintessential Australian living. The timeless appeal of this shaded outdoor living space is the unlikely inspiration for a lifetime of work by celebrated architect Professor Kerry Clare.

In a presentation to a recent forum as part of Open House Sunshine Coast 2018, Architecture for Good: An exploration of architectural work for community good, the multi-award winning architect showcased an inspiring body of work encompassing both living and public spaces. Working as Clare Design, the husband and wife team of Lindsay and Kerry Clare collaborate to produce outstanding buildings acknowledged for their rare combination of design excellence and exceptional environmental performance.

The presentation took the audience on a journey from Clare Design’s beginnings interpreting the themes of traditional Queensland architecture for homes and public buildings across the Sunshine Coast to becoming Directors of the NSW Government Architecture Office and designing one of the iconic Australian buildings of our time, Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).

Homes and public buildings completed while living on the Sunshine Coast during the 1980s and 1990s have become an intrinsic to the Sunshine Coast vernacular, laying the foundation for an enduring architectural style. The fundamentals of good design remain consistent from the simplest to the most complex builds: orientation, ventilation, shading and weather protection, energy efficiency, reflection of place and the use of simple materials.

“Good design and sustainable design are intrinsically linked,” Professor Clare said. “Our buildings allow occupants to engage with architecture and the world outside, reinforcing the essential connection with place.”

“We’ve explored the pleasure of living on a Queensland verandah with the aim to make every experience as pleasurable as being on a verandah. Initially we explored houses but eventually extended the model to public buildings.”

Sunshine Coast work: simplicity and contrast

Their aspiration to bring the lived experience of the Queensland verandah into indoor environments was evident in Clare Design’s early Sunshine Coast work. The minimal Goetz House in Buderim is an exercise in simplicity and contrast, for a client who wanted their home to convey the sentiment of camping. Open living spaces to the north are enclosed by fly-screened walls rather than windows, a fly-screened gallery linking casual living areas to intimate masonry alcoves and the more protected southern wing of the residence. External materials were used internally to bring the sense of a verandah to interior living areas.

The intriguing aspect of Clare Design’s work is that while inspiration is drawn from traditional Queensland homes, the interpretation varies, determined by the project brief, location and intention. The remote Hammond House in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, completed in 1994, offers a tangible example. Modest in scale, form and budget, the house is designed with sustainability and self-sufficiency in mind. Effective sun shading and orientation made it possible to use the single skin walls of a Queenslander with plywood utilised instead of traditional vertical boarding, offering greater protection during extreme weather events.

Each of these projects demonstrates that beautiful builds do not always need to cost more and in fact, Clare Design has achieved energy efficient build styles that stand the test of time, and comparable to the cost of a standard build.

After almost 20 years working on the Sunshine Coast, Kerry and Lindsay accepted a role as Design Directors for the NSW Government Architecture Office where one of their notable achievements was the upgrade to No. 1 Fire Station in Castlereagh Street, Sydney. The project needed to meet operational requirements for the next 100 years for a building originally constructed in 1887, while minimising the impact of the changes on heritage values of the existing fabric.

“A new infill building is the operational hub of the fire station and meets sustainable environmental principles in a difficult urban context” Professor Clare explained. “Street-level pollution is avoided by drawing down fresh air through vents in the top of the façade. Natural light and reflected light from surrounding high-rise towers is captured through skylights in the skillion roofs.”

Large-scale interpretations of verandah type structures are key features of Clare Design’s public buildings including the Chancellery at Sunshine Coast University, GoMA, and the Docklands Library in Melbourne. Each of these projects has sustainability, simplicity, the use of robust and natural materials, and verandahs at the core of their designs.

The GoMA project offered an opportunity to create what Professor Clare describes as an “open, inviting, generous and democratic urban pavilion. It allows people to approach and engage in various ways and further allows the Gallery to occupy and interpret the landscape.”

Lessons from the traditional Queensland house and local circumstances informed the structure with its distinctive angular roof, sheltering layers of screens and verandahs, and natural light spilling into an open plan interior.

“The Gallery consciously cites and incorporates an outward looking approach through a system of public living rooms and public verandahs opening outwards into the surrounding public space, landscape and city beyond,” said Professor Clare.

It’s clear that the Clare partnership’s work has helped to shape the very meaning of ‘good design’ in the Australian context. The simplicity and restraint of their structures, exploration of natural, sustainable materials and deep understanding of the importance of place earns them recognition as two of the great architects of our time:

“If there is a true and overwhelming successor practice, to that personified in Glenn Murcutt’s ethos of ‘touching the earth lightly’, then it is surely the prolific career of husband and wife team, Lindsay and Kerry Clare.” - Kenneth Frampton, 2009 Ware Professor of Architecture, Columbia University, New York

Photography: John Gollings

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