Verandah, deck, porch…same thing really?

It was this casual conversation with fellow architects from the southern states about the difference between outside spaces, that brought me to the realisation that there are a lot of ways to describe an open-air structure attached to a building. And no, they are not all the same thing!

For a dyed-in-the-wool Queenslander there may be an important distinction between a patio and a balcony, a terrace and a breezeway. These are the spaces we live in. Be that a bed in a sleepout during a hot summer night, morning coffee on the front verandah on a sunny winter’s morning, or a family barbeque on the back deck complete with festoon lights and mosquito coils.

Here in the Bundaberg Region we enjoy just about as perfect weather as you could ask for. With the most equable climate
in the country (and 5th most equable in the world) we are in the enviable position where we can live outdoors year-round. As an architect I’m always looking for the best ways to take best advantage of these natural benefits. My goal is to further enhance my clients’ opportunity to enjoy their spaces both indoor and out.

Sometimes a classic verandah wrapping the outside of the building is the answer. Tried and true, it’s the enduring image
of Queensland architecture for most people. It provides shade to the internal rooms as well as providing external living space. Generally though, the way we have adapted our lifestyle since the early colonial times means the narrow space no longer meets our needs, particularly for entertaining large groups of friends and family. The more “room-shaped” deck (raised) or patio (on ground) meets these 21st century requirements.

Beyond the basic space itself, I generally consider a multitude of functional and aesthetic variations dictated by the location, orientation, outlook, construction type and client preference. Insects a problem? A screened outdoor room allows the whole home to open up and be connected with the outdoor space. On the coast with strong winds making a traditional balcony uncomfortable? Why not recess the outdoor space deep into the building to provide more protection from the weather? Privacy an issue? More solid balustrading, screening and incorporation of landscape can create a secluded oasis that doesn’t feel…they say something about who we are and how we live walled in. No neighbours for miles? Hey, why not sunken his and hers bathtubs with a view to the setting sun!

And it’s not only homes that can respond to the Queensland climate and context. Many historic commercial buildings in Bundaberg feature beautiful colonnades and verandahs. Highlights include the General Post Office and many of the pubs and former banks. The School of Arts on Bourbong Street also has impressively high-ceilinged verandahs on both the ground and first floor. The advent of air- conditioning saw commercial architecture in Queensland lose these elements to a large extent, yet in recent years this trend has begun to reverse with a greater focus on green architecture and providing a pleasant workplace environment.

So while the names are many and varied the common denominator is that in our pocket of Queensland these are our living and dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, even bathrooms. They are practical, attractive, and sustainable. Furthermore, they say something about who we are and how we live.

Architect Tomas O’Malley designs buildings that reflect Central Queensland’s climate and lifestyle.

Photos: Right Image Photography