There’s a thing called the pre-1946 rule in Brisbane. The town planners use it. To approve a development, they often refer to an aerial photograph taken of Brisbane in 1946, which shows in detail every roofline that was there at the time. It’s fascinating to look at and I think it was taken for military purposes for intelligence in the event of a Japanese invasion (which is ironic given what I plan to do on my plot of land, but more on that later). It’s also a frustrating hurdle if you plan to develop an existing property.
It works this way: You are not allowed to demolish any part of a building, in particular the roofline, if it was there pre-1946. The rule is designed to protect the look of the streetscape that Brisbane is renown for, with its lovely gabled old-Queenslanders and their ornate balustrades and expansive verandahs. Bollocks. The policy is a failure and here’s why.
Queenslanders (the people, not the houses) don’t like sitting on their front verandahs drinking beer in a squatter’s chair. Queenslanders want to live in Tuscany. They want masonry. They want to feel European. They prefer to lock up their plasma televisions and buttoned leather chesterfields behind stucco and terracotta porticos so they can sip on their French champagne in air-conditioned comfort. It’s some kind of reaction to the old country town image Brisbane has been saddled with.
That doesn’t mean they break the pre-1946 rule. They can’t knock the original houses down so they encase the entire pre-1946 structure of their house behind an outer shell of terracotta and travertine. They entomb it. If good old Tutankhamen were a house, he’d be an old Queenslander. So the streetscape of Brisbane, thanks to a loophole in the pre-1946 rule is now dominated by homes built right out to the boundary with no eaves and no verandahs and no sign of life outside. All the living is done behind the walls.
I don’t like this idea. It’s very antisocial.
So when I found what I call the Greenhouse House, which is actually called the F3 House by Koh Kitayama + architecture WORKSHOP in Japan, I rejoiced. It was ironic. It was clever. And it somehow paid lip service to this robotic repetition of square houses, with a gabled roof, no eaves, maximizing every centimeter of space the block afforded whilst still thumbing its nose at everyone in the street.
It invites the street in, but still maintains its distance. How fucking awesomely clever.
The house is deceptively simple with hidden engineering genius. It looks like a white box (a shipping container, even) with two rooms inside. On the top of the box is a deck. Under the box is a garage. And the whole shebang is contained within a steel structure of greenhouse glass and window frames. There’s outdoor living galore, but it’s actually protected. It throws some privacy out the window, but seriously do I need to mention Facebook and Instagram and online dating? There’s more privacy in this house than there is in your typical Facebook profile.
I’ll be using the Greenhouse House as part of my conceptual brief to my architect as well. Hello, Hamilton. You’re going to see a whole lot more of me.