This is the Oxley Homestead near Hay. This is hot country. The homestead sprawls with deep verandas, providing living areas where people can gather on hot days,
I grew up on the New England Tablelands, a cool area by Australian standards because of its height above sea level. Even then, both my parents’ and grandparents’ houses had extensive verandas.
Mind you, Armidale had a different problem, cold in winter. A weatherboard house with no insulation can be very cold indeed. Still, and it’s hard to believe now, I could sit on top of the bed and read with no heating. Mind you, that’s partly a matter of self-defense. The kerosene heater that I could have used smelt just so badly!
This is Lanyon Homestead near Canberra. Again, you will see the same verandas.
What you won’t see are the trees in the drive. They spread and provide a deeply shaded area that is quite wonderful on hot days.
Growing up, I valued those English trees. A little later, I couldn’t quite understand the native garden movement that said we must have Australian natives even if they were fire prone and provided less shade. Actually, I still don’t!
I am not sure who first invented the veranda. I have seen a passing suggestion from architect Peter Freeman that the first verandas may have come from British Indian designs in pattern books. Whoever they were, they deserve great praise!
Another of the nice features of some of the earlier Australian country designs was the courtyard. Here you had an area flanked by buildings, often a u shape, where verandas with chairs and grape vines or other climbers faced onto a central space with its own shade trees.
Let me finish this brief essay with an expression of prejudice. I accept that it is prejudice and stand to be corrected. To my mind, both customers and Australian architects since the Second World War and perhaps earlier have actually lost sight of the Australian climate. They build homes that you can’t live in without air conditioning. They also build homes – and here I blame customers not architects – that look inward where the role of the outdoor is limited to the required single entertainment space.