Brisbane August 2018

The month in review: Brisbane

By Herron Todd White
August 2018

We may be Australia’s third largest city but by many measures, we are a young capital whose evolution into a modern, vibrant centre has only been a few decades in the making.

One of the great advantages of this slower growth path is that, unlike Sydney, we have an abundance of options when it comes to real estate. There are huge tracts of developable land within a short commute of the CBD. These areas are ripe for major, multi-stage community development.

In addition, we have natural features that can fire the imagination of designers and home owners alike – hills with views and a winding river with frontage, not to mention enviable coast lines, clean air and a reasonably uneventful rush hour.

As such, watching the way our city has adapted to modern living over the past decade in particular has been interesting and provides a great example of what contemporary Australia should look like.

Another great advantage for Brisbane is that we remain the frontrunner in capital city affordability. Bigger blocks for less money means more square metres of blank canvas on which to create wonderful housing designs.

And our immediate future continues to look bright as we see an increasing number of interstate migrants look to take up residence and start cheering for the Maroons come State of Origin.

So, what are the interesting elements of housing design in 2018?

In detached abodes, we continue to love a fusion of the old and new.

Renovations in the inner city like to take advantage of already established old school features that have served us well in the past. Our original Queenslanders are both stunning and functional. Most renovations don’t look to bastardise the design, but rather adopt their advantages and highlight their beauty. If more living space is required, a modern extension is added to the already classic home.

And they’re not being done by half measures either. High-end architects are partnering with wellregarded builders to create their own interpretation of timber and tin using unusual angles, large voids, oversized windows and high-level finishes and fittings on the extensions that complement these grand old dames.

Another evolution in general design we’re seeing is the growth in multi-generational living. Kids are staying home longer as they transition from school to work or university and then look to save for their own home deposit (or overseas adventure). Add to that the ageing population which is resulting in older family members requiring assistance. All this means that mum, dad, kids and grandparents are ending up in the same space.

Multi-generational construction means diverse living spaces. The kids need their own chill-out zone, study areas and bathrooms, so new constructions over two or more levels will allow for this.

Grandparents require assisted independence with many opting for a contemporary granny flat construction on some of the larger suburban blocks. These constructions are a far cry from the kit homes of yore. Granny flats now are splendid builds with open plan living, balconies and expansive bedrooms all laid out to take advantage of natural light and easy access.

In terms of vacant land, we’re seeing new developments adopt smaller blocks to help improve affordability for buyers. The Brisbane of 1968 could never have imagined allotments positioned 20 kilometres from the CBD under 400 square metres in area. And imagine the reaction to infill style projects in inner city suburbs yielding some sites as small as 150 square metres – that’s just over half the size of a tennis court!

The key to making these work is, of course, clever house design incorporating zero-lot lines and internal, tiny courtyards. Open plan living is a must too and if you can have higher than usual ceilings this will help create a sense of space as well.

Another change underway for us Brisbanites is the adoption of long-term unit living. Apartments are no longer just for those looking for a compact and affordable way to be close to town. We now find a mix of younger folk, business professionals and retirees all taking advantage of apartment living.

This has led to the vertical village concept where unit towers will include some cool lifestyle retail at ground level along with excellent residents’ facilities. Examples around town include projects such as Oxley + Stirling which has created a residents’ rooftop club comprising lap and plunge pools, reflection ponds, terraced seating, alfresco and barbeque areas, private dining area with kitchen facilities, day beds and sun lounges, commercial grade gym, private cinema theatre and library area.

We’re even aware of a residents’ club at Lucent in Newstead which includes a 55-metre rooftop Olympic sized infinity edge pool with underwater speakers. This development has the typical gym and sauna, however also features a private dining room and golf simulator.

Stepping beyond housing types and another way our city has evolved is through town planning. We’ve seen council step up its approach to village nodes which are helping to decentralise our population. A great example is the transport hub at Chermside. Council re-designated areas around the shopping centre to allow for high-rise living and residents are taking advantage of the nearby retail facilities and transport options.

You can see we’re a city on the grow and we’ve come a long way in 50 years.

Back in 1968, the city fringe was a very different offering.

Suburbs such as Aspley, just ten kilometres north of the CBD, had new subdivisions springing up with good sized blocks of land priced at around $8,000. In 2018, that same block of land is likely to cost closer to $500,000.

In fact, the ten kilometre band is probably a reliable measure marking most of the new development around 1968.

To the west of Brisbane, 1960s housing was well established in suburbs such as The Gap where a long trek along the dirt track of Waterworks Road wouldn’t have been for the faint hearted. There was also the question of utilities. The thunderbox outhouse continued to be in use in these areas in the 1960s – in fact it was up to Clem Jones, Brisbane’s Lord Mayor from 1961 to 1975, to make sure sewerage was available to the suburbs which are now considered inner to middle ring.

Head south and you’ll find some fine examples of 1960s housing in Moorooka, including some of the classic lowset brick veneer dwellings that are so solid, a wrecking ball can barely dent them.

Housing remained a timber and tin affair for the most part. The 1960s was also the era of the narrow chamferboard homes and elements of mid-century modern design came to the fore. Big walls of windows to capture natural light and take in the views were just the thing.

We’ve seen plenty of change over the past 50 years and we’re pretty excited to see what the next 50 will bring to our once big country town in the great south-east.

Happy birthday Herron Todd White!

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