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Dossier: Entanglements of Architecture and Comfort beyond the Temperate Zone - 2

Thermal Nationalism: the Climate and House Design Program in Australia (1944-1960)

Le nationalisme thermique du programme Climat et Habitat en Australie (1944-1960)
Daniel J. Ryan

Résumés

L’importance croissante de la régulation de la chaleur dans l’appréciation des performances thermiques des bâtiments en Australie offre une illustration de la façon dont le climat et le confort sont devenus des sujets politiques et scientifiques au milieu du xxe siècle. L’article examine les recherches menées sur le climat et l’habitat à la fin de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale en Australie et montre que les études liées au problème de la chaleur dans les habitations ont servi les intérêts du pays en Australie comme à l’étranger. À partir des travaux de DHK Lee, de la Commission du logement du Commonwealth et de la Station de construction expérimentale du Commonwealth, nous examinerons les tensions entre les notions de nation, de région et de climat, et comment les tentatives pour rationaliser les choix matériels en fonction de critères physiologiques et thermiques ont donné lieu à des formes hybrides de construction et de conception de logements. Une hybridation également visible dans les discours sur l'architecture tropicale et bioclimatique que la recherche australienne en architecture a contribué à instaurer à cette époque.

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Introduction

  • 1 See for example Richard Hyde, Bioclimatic Housing: Innovative Designs for Warm Climates, London ; (...)
  • 2 Some notable histories include Jiat-Hwee Chang, “Thermal Comfort and Climatic Design in the Tropic (...)
  • 3 See Warwick Anderson’s débat piece in this issue and also Daniel J. Ryan, Settling the Thermal Fro (...)

1Open a recent textbook on the climatic design of buildings and chances are you will see chapter layouts that move seamlessly from global issues to local ones. Subjects range from the characteristics of the regional climate to the particularities of local microclimates and building traditions, and recommended design strategies, material performances and a few recent case studies.1 Thermal comfort and resource efficiency are generally taken as worthwhile objectives for such efforts. The apparent ease with which explanations move from geography to vernacular architecture to building assemblies and individual buildings belies the effort that once went into making such connections, particularly as World War Two drew to a close.2 Indeed, pulling these relationships apart to uncover efforts to climatize the design of dwellings and choice of materials allows us to think about the tensions between regional and national identity this process can both mask and make explicit. The emergence of building science research in postwar Australia, a multi-climatic nation, is a case where such issues were at play. But it is also one where a residue of racialized beliefs remained, about the role of architecture in mediating the supposed impact of climate on the body.3

  • 4 Jiat-Hwee Chang, A Genealogy of Tropical Architecture: Colonial Networks, Nature and Technoscience(...)
  • 5 Daniel A. Barber, A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War, New Yo (...)

2Architectural historians have tended to look at the intersection of climate, comfort, and modernity in mid-century architecture in one of two ways: either as a lost tradition of modern architecture or as part of the technical imbalance of postwar decolonization efforts. The first approach has concentrated on the history of solar architecture and bioclimatic architecture in North America and Europe, while the second one has traced the networks, schooling, and views on nature and nation-building of architects, planners, and scientists operating in the tropics.4 More recently, these two approaches have been brought into conversation, for example in Daniel Barber’s work on the export of American solar know-how to Casablanca, or the influence of Brazilian architecture on the development of Victor and Aladar Olgyays’ methods of solar control. 5 Clearly, there is a need to begin examining the interrelationships between networks of tropical architecture and networks of bioclimatic architecture. I wish to touch on this briefly by looking at how research on tropical architecture at the end of World War Two formed the basis for a wider national study of climate and performance standards for house design in Australia. I show how some of these outputs were taken up by both advocates of bioclimatic design and advocates of tropical architecture.

  • 6 Walter Bunning, Homes in the Sun: The Past, Present and Future of Australian Housing, Sydney: W. J (...)
  • 7 Max Freeland, Architecture in Australia: A History, Ringwood: Penguin Books, 1972 (1968), p. 260.
  • 8 Robin Boyd, Australia’s Home: Its Origins, Builders and Occupiers, Melbourne: Melbourne University (...)

3In postwar Australia, when architects and architectural historians discussed climate, there was often an ambiguity about locality. On the one hand, climate was invoked at a national level. In 1945, Sydney architect Walter Bunning suggested that Australian homes could be made “to suit our climate.”6 Even in the late 1960s, historians such as Max Freeland wrote of postwar architects rediscovering the virtues of “the Australian climate [being} conducive to outdoor living.”7 On the other hand, climate was invoked at a regional level, where it could be used to explain both similarities and differences in architectural approaches between states. Ignorance of climate was denounced, often when attempting to explain any similarity in aspiration or style across the country. One thinks of the Melbourne architect and critic Robin Boyd, in 1952, lauding the thermal sensibility of Robin Dods’s early twentieth-century buildings in Brisbane. A few paragraphs later, he contrasted this with the situation after World War Two, lamenting that “there was little difference between the dreams of the urban home-seeker in North Brisbane and those of the home-seeker in Hobart on the nation’s southern tip.”8

  • 9 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Lond (...)
  • 10 Schoolchildren across Australia learn the poem My Country by Dorothea Mackellar, written in 1908 i (...)

4The idea of there being an “Australian climate” is somewhat troubling, given the country’s size and geographical range. Instead, it points to an imagined set of common attributes of most of the climates in the country. Benedict Anderson has suggested nations as imagined communities,9 and I would like to argue that the thermal imagination of settler Australia is generally of a place that is too hot―a sunburnt country, to use Dorothea Mackellar’s hackneyed phrase10―and one that has used the problem of excessive heat to unify discourse. Equally, expectations about climate’s role in forging regional differences point to some tension with this idea. How might this tension have played out, when it came to building research? In this essay, I wish to suggest that the perception of Australia as a warm country helped to direct early research efforts after World War Two into climate mitigation in dwellings, and acted initially as a point of difference from climatic research then going on in Britain and the United States. I also wish to uncover some of the effort that went into making climatic information intelligible for architects, and how research efforts sought to purify the choice of material construction relative to climate and indices of comfort for European bodies. In so doing, let us examine early attempts during the 1940s to make the indoor climate of dwellings measurable and predictable, and the role that standards of comfort played in dictating material choice and assuaging White anxieties about dwelling.

Climate, Modernity, and the Commonwealth Housing Commission

  • 11 Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, [First published as Nous n'avons jamais été modernes: Ess (...)
  • 12 On Francis Greenway and Leslie Wilkinson, see Philip Cox and Clive Lucas, Australian Colonial Arch (...)
  • 13 Stuart Macintyre, Australia’s Boldest Experiment: War and Reconstruction in the 1940s, Sydney: New (...)

5If modernity involves acts of purification,11 then the postwar climatic design of buildings in Australia highlights how architects and scientists were determined to place a climatically-defined order on the layout and construction of Australian homes. Designing buildings with climate in mind was not something new in Australia. Architects such as Francis Greenway in New South Wales during the early nineteenth century, Robin Dods in Queensland and Leslie Wilkinson in New South Wales at the turn of the twentieth century, and the Northern Territory’s Beni Burnett during the inter-war period were all known for their sensitivity to climate, place, and reinvention of building tradition.12 Yet their designs had limited influence on the homes that most Australians lived in. In the aftermath of the Depression of the 1930s, State and then federal Commonwealth governments were increasingly alarmed by the living conditions of the urban poor, with housing commissions uncovering widespread overcrowding along with poor building maintenance, drainage, and ventilation.13 As the Australian government pondered postwar reconstruction, not only the house but its environment were considered ripe for reform.

  • 14 Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, op. cit. (note 11), p. 10-12.

6The ensuing publications, building designs, and climate and house design research program allow us to understand some of the ambiguities in the way that climatic knowledge turned into a tool of modernization of Australian housing. There is some merit in returning to Bruno Latour’s classic study of modernity, We Have Never Been Modern, to consider how research on climate and house design, as World War Two drew to a close, was informed by what Latour terms “the Modern Constitution.” Latour suggests that the term “modern” does not designate just a break in time or a battle between the old and new but also a set of practices.14 On the one hand are what he terms practices of translation, which seek to create hybrids of nature and culture. One sees this in attempts to enroll climatic knowledge into nation-building efforts. On the other hand are practices of purification, which attempt to render discussions on culture and nature as separate.

  • 15 Commonwealth Housing Commission, Final Report, 25th August 1944, Sydney: Government Printer, 1944, (...)
  • 16 Ibid., p. 89.

7Recall our earlier example of Boyd decrying the similarity of architectural fashions across Australia. In his critique, Boyd implied that this cultural approach was unnatural. Instead, he assumed that building designs were better off responding to their climate. A similar critique about building practice was made in the Commonwealth Housing Commission’s 1944 final report.15 The report, the culmination of over a year’s worth of inquiry across the country, set the agenda for federal and state plans for postwar housing. It argued that “one of the main disabilities of Australian housing, in the past, has been the lack of any attempt to adapt the type of housing to the climate of the area in which it is to be erected.” 16 To counter this, separate designs were developed for tropical and sub-tropical houses along with a range of one-, two- and three-bedroom houses for Australian urban and rural sites, in, presumably, the temperate south. The report contained a nine-page section in the appendix on “Solar Planning” with charts for each capital city showing sun-path diagrams, mid-winter shadows and recommendations for sizing window hoods. Domestic activities were to be scheduled according to the movement of the sun and with that, the layout of homes (fig. 1).

Figure 1: Solar Planning of Domestic Activity, 1944.

Figure 1: Solar Planning of Domestic Activity, 1944.

Source: Commonwealth Housing Commission, Final Report, 25th August 1944, Sydney: Government Printer, 1944, p. 298.

  • 17 Geoffrey London, Philip Goad and Conrad Hamann, 150: An Unfinished Experiment in Living: Australia (...)

8This unabashedly modern project appeared to be turning to nature to purify the house, a product of culture. Every climate would need its own house design, but not every lifestyle. Doing so, the Commission tried to naturalize suburban life across a nation using the boundaries of climatic difference to define any permissible variation. Yet this interest in climate provided a convenient cover for the promotion of modernist design and adoption of international trends in construction.17

  • 18 Commonwealth Housing Commission, Final Report, op. cit. (note 15), p. 89.
  • 19 Ibid., p. 15.

9A thin veneer of geographical specificity was applied to the report, which gave plans for tropical, subtropical, and temperate urban and rural environments. However, it also noted that its proposed housing standards “apply mainly to temperate climates.” The report recommended a detailed investigation of the adaptation of housing standards to climate, noting the work already done by the Queensland Tropical Housing Committee in 1942.18 The Commission also recommended setting up a Building Research Station, to look at new construction methods to reduce costs and coordinate scientific knowledge on construction.19 In making these recommendations, the Commission attempted to treat the house as a natural object, freed from Australian society’s unsuitable fashions. On the other hand, it required people and institutions to do this.

10Still, the Commonwealth Housing Commission final report highlights some of the ways that climate was invoked to suggest how particular kinds of house designs could belong to regions of the country. (fig.2) It uncovered divisions based on temperate and tropical differences, alongside urban and rural divides. If anything, it proposed a thermal regionalism rather than a thermal nationalism. And yet, the exceptionalism granted to tropical and sub-tropical designs pointed to longer twentieth-century histories of climate and comfort in the northern Australia as a project of national defense.

Figure 2: Commonwealth Housing Commission Proposed Sub-Tropical House, 1944.

Figure 2: Commonwealth Housing Commission Proposed Sub-Tropical House, 1944.

Source: Commonwealth Housing Commission, Final Report: 25th August, 1944, Sydney: Government Printer, 1944, p. 291.

Mitigating Tropical Heat as a Form of National Defense

  • 20 For discussion on early twentieth-century histories of race and place in Australia see Russell Mcg (...)
  • 21 Raphael W. Cilento, The White Man in the Tropics: with Especial Reference to Australia and its Dep (...)
  • 22 Stuart Macintyre, Australia’s Boldest Experiment, op. cit. (note 13), p. 92-93, 192.
  • 23 See Reports of a Meeting Held at the Department of Post-War Reconstruction to Consider the Proposa (...)

11Climate research in Australia during the twentieth century was rarely politically neutral. It was initially closely linked to the belief that economic and national security would be ensured by European Australians populating the north of the continent, beyond the Tropic of Capricorn. Since the 1910s and 20s, on account of immigration restriction and the forced deportation of Pacific Islanders, collectively known as the White Australia Policy, much of the discourse on the subject had centered on questions of race and place.20 Despite some public anxiety about whether Europeans could live and work in the tropics, public health officials such as Sir Raphael Cilento advocated during the 1920s that with suitable precautions, such as improved housing, diet, and exercise, Australia’s north could be developed.21 The settler-colonial logic of populate or perish was given a renewed, tropical impetus following the Japanese bombing of Darwin and Thursday Island in 1942,22 and this translated also into building research. Early discussions at the Ministry of Post-War Reconstruction, between August and October 1943, on setting up a Building Research Station in Australia emphasized research on the tropical house, both as a tool for collaboration between different scientific agencies, and to assist efforts to settle the north.23

  • 24 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, A Brief Explanation of the Organisation and Work of th (...)
  • 25 Jiat-Hwee Chang, A Genealogy of Tropical Architecture, 2016, op. cit. (note 4), p. 166.

12The Building Research Station was formally established in 1944 and renamed the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station (cebs).24 Based in Sydney, under the aegis of the Commonwealth Housing Commission, the cebs was tasked with improving building techniques and equipment to enable buildings to be cheaper, more efficient, and more easily constructed. It had a much narrower scope, compared to its sister organization, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, with only limited responsibility for materials research. With a grouping of architects, engineers, technicians, and scientists, however, the cebs became the center for building research in Australia, and was part of a postwar push in the United States, Britain, and its Dominions to place postwar building reconstruction on a scientific footing.25

13The tropical house was initially used to illustrate how materials research, design research, and field research would be combined when each was controlled by a different agency. In addition, separate work was already underway by the Queensland Tropical Housing Committee on the design of a tropical house, and in January 1944, members of the Commonwealth Housing Commission, involved in setting up the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, were invited to attend meetings and collaborate.

  • 26 See Raphael W. Cilento, The White Man in the Tropics with Especial Reference to Australia and its (...)
  • 27 Grenfell Ruddock, Building Research Station: Notes on the Scope of the Work and Setup of the Labor (...)

14Prominent public health officials in Queensland, such as Cilento and Douglas Harry Kedgwin (DHK) Lee had long argued that the high temperatures of many Queensland homes were a major disincentive to settlement. Both Cilento and Lee were members of the Queensland Tropical Housing Committee and, after the war, sought to use it to embed their racialized, physiological vision of housing.26 Cilento presented housing conditions in Tropical Queensland as equivalent to the slum housing of southern cities. However, there had been some ambivalence within the Ministry of Post-War Reconstruction about the national priority of tropical housing research. A preliminary memo from August 1943 by the architect Grenfell Ruddock, an executive officer at the Ministry of Post-War Reconstruction, noted on account of the sparse population in the tropics, compared to capital cities, “it is unlikely it would be given priority over more pressing housing problems.”27 Still, the tropical house, as a research problem, continued to be mentioned by the cebs well into 1945, by which time the Queensland Tropical Housing Committee had all but disbanded.

  • 28 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, Notes for Discussion No. 2: Climate and House Design, (...)

15It is likely that the vision of tropical housing as a form of national defense continued to wield political weight, even when the threat of Japanese invasion had passed. Research officers traded on this importance, with a view to advancing a climatic agenda for housing; that is, researching the specificities of construction elements in relation to climate, against some accepted norm of comfort. In March 1945, a cebsdiscussion paper on Climate and House Design, for State Housing Technical Liaison officers, inferred the links between climatic design and nation building in the north. “The prospective postwar development of northern Australia,” the paper commenced, “brings to the fore the problem which has always existed but has never been given adequate study in this country, except perhaps by some few of those who live in the north, the problem of varying design factors for varying climates.”28 The introduction framed climatic design as a concept that was foreign to those who did not live in the tropics. On the one hand, the fact that the division was not simply urban/rural, but temperate/tropical, implies that technical scientists believed that nature was given greater consideration in the tropics. On the other hand, the quote suggests an alternative reading―that research scientists and administrators believed that tropical design was a learning opportunity, one that could be extended to a broader concept of climatic design, applicable to a whole nation, rather than a single region. Here, the development of climatic design standards could be an act of scientific independence.

  • 29 David Arnold, The Tropics and the Travelling Gaze: India, Landscape and Science, 1800-1856, Seattl (...)
  • 30 Roy Macleod, “On Visiting the ʽMoving Metropolis:ʼ Reflections on the Architecture of Imperial Sci (...)

16To a certain extent, the first reading of the quote―of the tropics as a space apart―conforms with David Arnold’s argument that to Europeans, although the tropics were a “conceptual and not just physical space,” an environmental “other,” they could be tamed by Western science and medicine so that economic expansion could continue.29 It highlights the belief of Australian technocrats based in Sydney and Melbourne that up to World War Two, climatic design, which they considered important, had influenced building design in only certain parts of the country and certainly not in more temperate locations. Yet the second way of looking at the quote, that the tropics were a learning opportunity for Australian building practice, aligns with the opinion of historians of science and technology, such as Roy MacLeod. These scholars point out that in the final phase of Imperial Science, during the interwar years until the mid 1950s, intellectual leadership in British science often occurred at the periphery, far from London.30

Performance Standards, Prefabrication, and Scientific Exchange

17Many in the construction industry, in both the United Kingdom and Australia, believed that prefabrication was the most efficient way to solve the expected postwar demand for housing. If prefabrication was not possible, then alternative forms of construction would also be required. Performance standards were not a matter of just structure or construction; they also involved environmental performance. However, British and Australian researchers defined their environmental performance problems in different ways, enabling us to identify different drivers of performance in each country at the end of World War Two.

  • 31 H. C. Coombes, Memo from H. C. Coombes to Secretary, Dept of External Affairs, 16th June 1944, Can (...)

18The war had greatly facilitated the flow of information between British, American, and Australian agencies, and the exchanges were extended to sharing technical information on postwar planning. In June 1944, Australian officials requested information from the Building Research Station in the United Kingdom and also the John B. Pierce Foundation in the United States.31 They thereby learned of the work of the Burt Committee in the UK and prefabricated housing research undertaken in the United States.

  • 32 For a history of British postwar reconstruction efforts, see Nicholas Bullock, Building the Post-W (...)
  • 33 Committee On Lighting Of Buildings, PWR/Lighting 49: The Effect of Recommendations on the Size of (...)
  • 34 Anthony M. Chitty, “ASB Lecture,” The Architects Journal, vol. 99, no. 2579, 1944, p.493.

19From 1941, as part of postwar planning, the British Ministry of Works was particularly concerned with developing new methods of construction that minimized labor and materials. In the United Kingdom, the Ministry established a Directorate of Post-War Building and, within this, a series of committees were set up to coordinate and set standards for future reconstruction efforts. Among the most influential of these, from the point of view of building science, was the Burt Committee, which was tasked in 1942 with the development of viable alternative methods of construction.32 In Britain, to save fuel and improve well-being, new dwellings were expected to be adequately illuminated with daylight. However, researchers feared that this would increase the size of windows in houses, leading to heat loss and higher heating bills.33 To solve the problem, an adequate standard of thermal performance had to be determined. The Burt Committee produced a series of reports on house construction and introduced the then radical idea of maximum transmittance values; i.e. U-factor, for walls, floors, and roofs. Architect Alfred Chitty, one of the members of the committee, argued that “if such standards were to be adopted there would be a considerable saving not only in tenants’ fuel bills, but also in solid fuel itself, hitherto this country’s greatest resource.”34

  • 35 Daniel Barber, A House in the Sun, op. cit. (note 5), p. 21-32.

20In the United States, the John B. Pierce Foundation funded solar planning research by Henry Wright, while private developers such as Howard Sloan promoted the work of George Fred Keck and the development of the solar house.35 Sloan’s promotion of Keck’s work, and the general interest in the solar house, occurred towards the end of World War Two, when fuel prices increased significantly with American entry into the war. In both the British and American cases, discussion around the thermal performance of the house focused on questions of energy, hygiene, or convenience, with less attention to comfort per se.

Scientific Independence and the Climate and House Design Program

21In the UK, the Burt Committee in England relied on the Building Research Station (brs) to evaluate new designs. In Australia, they were to be evaluated by the antipodean equivalent of the brs, the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station. To some extent, the cebs closely followed British practice. It coordinated building research on behalf of the government. It tested new methods of assembly and alternative forms of construction. Its early research into standards of performance relied heavily on the work by the brs for the Burt Committee. In this regard, there were the residual seeds of metropolitanism―British institutions first worked out how to evaluate postwar housing requirements and Australian institutions used this as a template.

  • 36 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, Draft Proposal for an Investigation of the Influence o (...)

22However, the Climate and House Design program developed by the cebs struck a different note. In 1945, the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station (cebs), acting on the Commonwealth Housing Commission's recommendation, drew up a proposal to investigate the influence of climate on small house design. Perhaps it is not surprising that this study focused on the problem of heat, explaining that “in most areas of Australia, summer is the most severe season.”36 Instead of being based on a British template, it was closely linked to research proposed by DHK Lee in 1940 on tropical settlement and in 1944 on tropical housing.

  • 37 Douglas H. K. Lee, “Assessment of Tropical Climates in Relation to Human Habitation,” op. cit. (no (...)

23Lee, an expert on high-temperature physiology at the University of Queensland, argued that development needed to be based on biological requirements rather than what he considered to be short-term economic requirements. He had spent time in the Harvard laboratory of Constantin Yaglou, who in 1926 defined the concept of the comfort zone. Concerned with the application of medicine to the development of Queensland for Europeans, Lee began to use heat indices to classify and map climates and to suggest desirable and tolerable limits for indoor environments. He broke down the state of Queensland into three separate climates: the tropics, marginal tropics, and sub-tropics, based on the divergence of each location from comfort temperatures. In this way, climate was stripped of its agricultural role and measured against the ideals of the air-conditioning industry, for no statistics on rainfall or sunlight were required, only temperature, humidity, and air velocities. But it was also racialized by Lee, who considered hotter parts of the tropics either unsuitable for European settlement or suitable only if the settlers were selected.37

  • 38 Idem, “Physiological Principles in Hot Weather Housing with Especial Reference to Queensland,” Uni (...)

24In a 1944 paper on Physiological Principles in Tropical Housing, Lee proposed the adoption of the American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineer’s “effective temperature,” developed by Yaglou and Houghton, as a heat index to relate the thermal aspects of climate to bodily comfort.38 He mapped and classified climates using the concept of “day-degrees”―a measure of the number of effective temperature degrees per day where the average outdoor temperature was above or below the comfort zone. (fig. 3) Along with other members of the Queensland Tropical Housing Committee (QTHC), he argued that each of these tropical climates required a different type of house and that field testing of different options across the state was desirable. Lee was countering what he thought was a prevailing belief within Queensland, that the state had a uniform climate, so he highlighted regional differences within the state. This small example shows that a confusion that operated at a national level―the conflation of climate and nation―could also operate at a state level: a conflation of climate and state. It was physiologists like Lee who sought to dispel this confusion. For Lee, region was defined by climatic, not political boundaries. Lee’s objection centered on his belief that the preservation of health and provision of comfort were the key to tropical settlement. Anything that threatened these two goals had to be opposed.

Figure 3: Mapping of effective temperature and relative humidity of Queensland towns in relation to the comfort zone, 1944.

Figure 3: Mapping of effective temperature and relative humidity of Queensland towns in relation to the comfort zone, 1944.

Source: Douglas H. K. Lee, “Physiological Principles in Hot Weather Housing with Especial Reference to Queensland,” University of Queensland Papers Department of Physiology, vol. 1, no. 8, 1944, p. 12.

  • 39 Idem, Human Climatology and Tropical Settlement: The John Thomson Lecture for 1946, Brisbane: Univ (...)

25Members of the Commonwealth Housing Commission met with the QTHC in 1944 and received information on the QTHC proposals for their own state-wide housing research. However, the QTHC effectively disbanded in 1945 when government funding for it ceased.39 Instead, climatic research passed to the cebs, which had responsibility for all of Australia, rather than just one state like the QTHC. Lee’s state-level approach was soon transposed to the national level by the Commonwealth Housing Commission and cebs. Similar arguments played out: researchers would attempt to define the variety of climates within the nation, using the data as a reason to quarantine any suspicious design from elsewhere.

  • 40 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, Draft Proposal for an Investigation of the Influence o (...)

26The Climate and House Design program, run largely between 1945 and 1947, sought to develop a performance standard for new forms of housing and to investigate the effect of ceiling height on indoor comfort.40 Like Lee’s work in Queensland, the program involved map-making, fieldwork, and physiological studies. However, it also involved model testing, effectively bringing the house into the laboratory, in a similar manner to what occurred with the brs. The program was an attempt to respond to the many inquiries the cebs received concerning how buildings using new materials or new methods of construction could achieve an adequate level of comfort.

  • 41 Commonwealth Housing Commission, First Interim Report, 21st October 1943, p. 15.
  • 42 J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design with Reference to Australian Conditions,” Commonwealth E (...)

27Although the station was set up assuming that prefabricated methods could replace brick or timber traditions,41 neither the traditional brick nor the timber form of construction was considered an adequate measure of “comfort.” Reflecting on the program in 1947, the main researcher, Wal Drysdale, argued that the station instead had to return to first principles and undertake a long-term study, as “any attempt to base these desirable standards upon traditional forms of construction is extremely difficult, if not impossible because the performances of the traditional forms vary over such wide limits.” He pointed out that the two main forms of construction in Australia - cavity brick construction and sheeted timber stud construction - had very different thermal performances but both were considered acceptable throughout the country. To Drysdale “it is obvious that both types cannot be equally desirable nor can both provide the best indoor comfort conditions in each of the various climates found in Australia.”42 To return to our earlier discussion on Latour, Drysdale’s comments suggest a process of purification was at play, with the social considerations of material choice to be rationalized instead by climatic considerations.

  • 43 Ibid., p. 3.

28Alongside materials, climate was seen to largely determine indoor comfort conditions. If anything, materials acted as mediators of climate, making it appear warmer or colder depending on their properties. Therefore, the climate that material studies took place in was also considered important and was a way of filtering not just materials but materials research from overseas. The fact that the studies had taken place in a different climate was thought to negate the reliability of any of their conclusions. Drysdale was generally against applying English or American data on house design to Australia, given the differences in climate. He believed that English data might only be applicable to Tasmania or to the mountainous regions south of Sydney. Some American data could be relevant, he said, but he warned that “American climates vary according to latitude and topography as much as do climates in Australia.”43

29In general, Australian researchers believed that research done in England and the United States, while useful, did not address Australian requirements, on account of climatic differences. There was the perception that even in the United States, the conservation of fuel during winter was a unifying factor, rather than the control of heat during summer. A March 1945 cebs discussion paper noted that:

Much work has been done in England during the war years to analyse the requirements of the English small house and to determine its essentials and the results of some of this work will be of great use to us, but in the main we must think out our own problems and find our own solutions because our conditions and our climates are of such variety and so different from those of England.

  • 44 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, Notes for Discussion for Conference of State Housing T (...)

For instance, most American work and all English work on the question of thermal transmittance of external walls is founded upon the problem of the cold climate, the problem of conserving heat. But that is not our problem. Over the greater part of Australia the problem is to keep the heat out, which is a very different thing. This means that our approach to that problem is entirely different from the English approach and that the conclusions reached will be correspondingly different.44

  • 45 Walter Bunning, Homes in the Sun: The Past, Present and Future of Australian Housing, op. cit. (no (...)
  • 46 Walter Bunning, Homes in the Sun: The Past, Present and Future of Australian Housing, op. cit. (no (...)

30The quote highlights the emphasis on excessive heat as a differentiator of Australian research. I suggest that a thermal nationalism is at play. British and American research is contrasted with Australian research at the time by their emphasis on problems of cold weather. It was not that Australian researchers ignored cold weather, or that American and British research was considered irrelevant. After all, contemporaneous to the cebs, Australian architects such as Walter Bunning were promoting the design of passive solar housing, adapting American designs for an Australian audience.45 Still, even Bunning also admitted that, in Australia, keeping heat in wasn’t as much a priority as keeping heat out.46 One can see how heat came to be seen as a unifying problem for building scientists and architects in Australia and a way of imagining differences between the priorities of research and architecture in Britain and the United States. Such scientists and architects could claim to be both modern, because they were rationalizing the choice of materials, and patriotic, because they were solving problems that were in the country’s interests.

Climatizing Material Selection and the Problem of Comfort

  • 47 J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design with Reference to Australian Conditions,” op. cit. (note (...)

31When researchers at the cebs commenced their investigations on Climate and House Design, they grappled with how best to classify Australia’s climates. Rejecting the fine-grained zoning of climates Lee had earlier proposed,47 instead they divided the country into three broad climates―tropical, hot arid, and temperate, with two sub-zones in each―tropical humid, sub-tropical humid, hot arid, dry warm temperate, temperate, and cool temperate (fig. 4).

Figure 4: Broad Classification of Australian Climates, 1947.

Figure 4: Broad Classification of Australian Climates, 1947.

Source: J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design: Summary of Investigations, 1945-1947,” Duplicated Document, no. 21, June 1947, p. 33.

32In justifying the need for the map, once more the researchers, in particular Drysdale, critiqued the supposed irrationalism of similar construction methods being found in vastly different climates across Australia. As he noted, “the fact that timber-framed houses with light inner and outer linings are common in both the north and south indicates that comfort factors have not been permitted to affect design.” Clearly, much like Bunning and Boyd, Drysdale believed that Australian house construction should be rationalized on the basis of climate and comfort. As such the climate and house design program shows the scientific work that went into a process of purification. Yet equally, while it also challenged the commonplace idea of there being a single Australian climate, referred to at the start of this paper, it also avoided a very fine-grained climatic regionalism.

  • 48 J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design: Summary of Investigations, 1945-1947,” Duplicated Docum (...)

33In the beginning phases of the Climate and House Design program from 1945 to 1947, there was little discussion of comfort and far more interest in the thermal performance of different forms of construction in each climate zone. The researchers initially thought of using full-size houses, but moved away from this option due to cost and inflexibility. A laboratory study was also proposed but was stalled due to the lack of available data on material surface temperatures.48 Instead a system of small huts using full-size materials were employed. (fig. 5) The huts, measuring 12ft x 8ft x 8ft (3.66m x 2.43m x 2.43m), were simple two-roomed buildings, with a corridor placed to the south of the rooms for access. The arrangement of the huts was based on the front rooms of a traditional four-room dwelling, emphasizing the relative normality of the structures, along with the material choices. Variations on a basic hut were tested in each climate zone, with the addition or subtraction of wall and floor insulation in temperate locations; the addition or subtraction of cross ventilation in hot-arid locations and the addition or subtraction of shading in tropical and temperate houses.

Figure 5: Test Hut, Climate and House Design Program, August 1945.

Figure 5: Test Hut, Climate and House Design Program, August 1945.

Source: J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design: Summary of Investigations 1945-1947,” Duplicated Document, no. 21, June 1947, p. 34.

34The choice of site was partly determined by the station’s wish to undertake field observations in each representative climate, but the pragmatics of obtaining weather data in remote locations also played a role. To overcome this obstacle, the cebs was assisted by the Department of Civil Aviation, who allowed the huts to be built near aerodromes and provided them with weather data. The sites chosen for the huts consisted of Essendon Airport near Melbourne, the cebs in Sydney, Mildura Airport in inland Victoria, (fig. 6) and Cloncurry Airport, a former mining town approximately 700 km inland of Townsville in northern Queensland.

Figure 6: Test huts in Mildura, 1946?

Figure 6: Test huts in Mildura, 1946?

Source: J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design: Summary of Investigations 1945-1947,” Duplicated Document, no. 21, June 1947, plate 2.

35Two different thermometers measured the air temperature and the globe temperature, allowing researchers to calculate a range of composite temperatures that accounted for the combined effects of humidity, radiation, and air velocity. This meant that researchers could estimate whether or not particular forms of construction would increase or reduce the effective temperature of the space. However, it was unclear at the outset what level of reduction would be considered acceptable.

  • 49 Ibid., p. 18.

36By 1947, researchers had enough data to compare the thermal behavior of dwellings during summer and winter time. In general they found that materials performed relatively similarly to one another regardless of location or outside temperature; that is, regardless of whether one location had a temperature of 30˚C and the other of 35˚C, a brick dwelling in either location would be about 5˚C cooler than a timber dwelling. However, the studies highlighted that some of the assumptions of standards from abroad were unlikely to apply to Australia. For instance, although timber huts were found to respond well to intermittent heating, this was less successful than expected when floors were also insulated. Instead, the researchers believed that overseas recommendations assumed continuous heating.49

37In general researchers could predict how the substitution of one form of construction for another would affect the internal temperature of a room, but they could not determine how this would affect the perception of comfort. Researchers had assumed that by measuring the temperature of the room, its humidity, and air movement, they could correlate this with the effective temperature index developed by the American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineers (ashve).

  • 50 Figures converted from degrees Fahrenheit. See Douglas H. K. Lee, “Physiological Principles in Hot (...)
  • 51 J. W. Drysdale, “Climate & House Design: Physiological Considerations,” Duplicated Document, no. 25 (...)

38While certain effective temperatures were known to be comfortable (17-22˚C for winter and 19-24˚C for summer), and others were known to be just about tolerable (30˚C for those at rest and 23˚C for those doing heavy labor), it was not clear how much of a change of temperature would induce a change in perceived thermal comfort.50 This meant that any change in temperature could not be instrumentalized. Researchers could not weigh up the cost of improving the comfort of occupants. Without the ability to map the change in temperature to a change in perceived comfort, it was difficult to argue that any increased cost of a given form of construction yielded an equivalent benefit in terms of thermal comfort.51

39For example, just because a brick room was five degrees cooler than a timber room did not necessarily mean that it was significantly more or less comfortable. Comfort depended on what the outside temperature was in the first place. Whether one room was 40°C or 35°C, both were still likely to be perceived as very uncomfortable. But if one room was 22°C and the other 17°C, then one room was likely to be perceived as comfortable and the other as slightly cool. In the first instance with two hot rooms, the five-degree difference did not change the perception of comfort. In the second instance, with a neutral and slightly cool room, the five-degree difference did.

40Researchers reliant on the effective temperature scale had a range of temperatures that in summer and winter were supposed to be comfortable for at least 50% of the population. They also had another set of temperatures which indicated the tolerable limits for people either working or at rest. The problem was that while researchers could define whether a temperature was within the range of comfort or within the broader range of tolerance, the effect of shifting somewhat from a tolerable temperature to a comfortable one was unclear.

41The field research, particularly in the dry, arid location of Cloncurry, Queensland and humid, tropical Cairns, gave some unexpected results with regard to comfort. Going into the investigation, Drysdale had assumed that the American heat index would suffice to interpret the relative discomfort of a room in the hut. However, translating changes of effective temperature into changes of comfort was not straightforward. Drysdale and his colleagues found instead that the upper levels of the American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineer’s comfort chart contained anomalies that did not align with the field data. The effective temperature was supposed to denote an equivalent sensation of warmth composed of the variables of air temperature, air velocity, and humidity. An air temperature of 21°C at 100% humidity in still air should seem the same as a temperature of 27°C at 0% humidity but with air speed of 3.5 m/s. According to the ASHVE nomogram, both would have an effective temperature of 21°C. But this was not the case for field data.

  • 52 J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design: Summary of Investigations, 1945-1947,” op. cit. (note 4 (...)
  • 53 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, Design Factors - Project 89: Physiological consideratio (...)

42In one case in Cloncurry they found that at air temperatures above 36 ˚C, observers preferred to stay in timber framed buildings with a breeze, even though they had an effective temperature one degree higher than brick buildings, where airflow was lower.52 Drysdale believed that the chart had not fully gauged the significance of air movement at high temperature. Acceptance of indoor temperature also seemed to break down when people started to perspire.53 With that in mind, Drysdale successfully expanded the investigation beyond a study of thermal behavior of dwellings, into a study of climatic design according to physiological principles.

Figure 7: Model Test Huts at the cebs, Ryde, nsw, 1948?

Figure 7: Model Test Huts at the cebs, Ryde, nsw, 1948?

Source: J. W. Drysdale, “The Thermal Characteristics of Model Structure, Investigations to March, 1948,” Duplicated Document no. 26, 1948, plate 2.

  • 54 This debate is discussed in more detail in Jiat-Hwee Chang and Daniel Ryan, “Editorial: Historiciz (...)
  • 55 J. W. Drysdale, “Physiological Study no.3: A Further Examination of Discomfort Conditions and the I (...)

43The studies were some of the first to interrogate the difference between laboratory and field testing of thermal comfort. (fig. 7) They opened a battle, still continuing today, as to whether comfort models derived for air conditioning are applicable to non-airconditioned environments.54 Against the advice of physiologists, Drysdale suggested the perspiration temperature would be a better measure of tolerable temperature and arranged for field tests to go ahead in 1947. Further work in 1950 and 1952 with W.F. MacFarlane, DHK Lee’s successor at the University of Queensland, examined what a tolerable upper temperature should be and whether a different index, such as the more familiar Dry Bulb or Air Temperature, would be effective. The later study further questioned the reliability of the effective temperature scale for building by studying the effect of radiant heat on comfort.55

44In summary, the physiological studies brought building scientists and physiologists together and served to open up questions about the applicability of air-conditioning heat indices for non-conditioned spaces. Researchers also began to pay attention to the role of radiant heat and the potential of heavyweight materials to provide more satisfactory spaces than previously imagined.

The Hybrid House

45The Climate and House Design program commenced by viewing the design of the hot-humid tropical house as a learning opportunity for all of Australia, but concluded that the design of hot-arid housing held greater possibilities. The shift in emphasis was partly to do with the fact that researchers lost faith in existing heat indices at high temperatures and wind speeds. They noted that framed buildings remained at similar temperature to outdoors but that this could be mitigated with increased air movement. However, for hot-dry conditions, where there was a large difference between day and night time temperature, heavyweight construction in brick or pisé at high temperatures appeared to offer significant advantages.

  • 56 J. W. Drysdale, “The Thermal Behaviour of Dwellings: A Review of Experimental Work to March, 1950, (...)

46Drysdale developed a thermal behavior chart for these climates (fig. 8), showing the likely reduction in temperature by a range of materials. Here the capacitance of the material―a function of its density and conductivity―appeared to offer the greatest benefits. The thermal behavior chart suggested that at high outdoor temperatures, which Drysdale defined as being above 27˚C, heavyweight materials could reduce indoor temperatures by as much as 6.5 ˚C. Drysdale advocated heavyweight walls for buildings in hot-arid, temperate, and humid locations, with the caveat that in hot-arid and temperate locations this should only be for “day-living rooms” such as the kitchen and dining room. “Night-living rooms” such as bedrooms, on the other hand, were best designed in frame construction.56

Figure 8: Thermal Behaviour Chart, 1950.

Figure 8: Thermal Behaviour Chart, 1950.

Source: J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and Design of Buildings, The Thermal Behaviour of Dwellings, A Review of Experimental Work to March, 1950,” Technical Study, no. 34, December 1950, p. 39.

Figure 9: Hot-Arid House showing the combined use of light and heavyweight construction.

Figure 9: Hot-Arid House showing the combined use of light and heavyweight construction.

Source: Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, “Design for Climate: Some notes on the Design of Domestic Buildings for the Hot Arid and Hot Humid Climates of Australia,” Notes on the Science of Building, n° SB1, 1950, p. 4.

  • 57 See for example the Breuer House II, New Canaan, Connecticut (1948); Rose Seidler House, Wahroonga (...)
  • 58 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, “Design for Climate: Some Notes on the Design of Domes (...)

47This hybrid house (fig. 9) seemed to offer the advantage of both heavy and lightweight materials, zoning the house into day and night zones, as had become the vogue in much contemporary architecture.57 Versions of the house appeared in the first popular bulletin the cebs issued to the professions, Notes on the Science of Building. Published in August 1949, the bulletin described design principles for houses in hot humid and hot-arid climates. The plan given showed a staggered building with a single, thick-walled daytime living room and a group of thin-walled and partitioned rooms opening to the south―presumably shaded from the sun. The day and night wings of the building were separated by a north and east facing L-shaped paved area, with a tree placed in the angle between the two wings. Two perspectives further reinforced the point that heavyweight construction was appropriate for daytime living areas and lightweight construction for night-time areas. The pamphlet noted that lightweight spaces, “although hot by day, will cool off rapidly and respond quickly to changes in outside temperature”.58

48Yet for a program that initially set out to purify housing design through the use of climate, the Climate and House Design project’s most celebrated design was in the end a hybrid between heavyweight and lightweight construction. A project that had sought to debunk the use of two kinds of construction methods―timber frame and brick construction―had in the end tested seven different kinds, some of which combined both kinds of construction, for example brick veneer construction. Latour’s suggestion that modernity creates a proliferation of hybrids was certainly true with the climate and house design program, particularly where climates had high temperature differentials; that is, climates that could be both cold and hot as the day progressed. Here, reversed brick veneer construction was favored: a combination of timber frame on the outside and brick on the inside. Alternatively, in plan, day and night-time areas could be constructed of heavy and light materials, creating a hybrid combination. Prior to the study, the combination might have been seen as problematic.

  • 59 George Anthony Atkinson, “Tropical Architecture and Building Standards,” in Conference on Tropical (...)
  • 60 David Oakley, Tropical Houses: A Guide to their Design, London: B.T. Batsford, 1961, p. 133.

49In fact, the hybrid plan gained considerable attention abroad, but some of the nuances of the discussion were lost. It cemented a belief among international researchers about building research in Australia being about heat. A number of key publications on tropical architecture referred to the plan. The housing advisor to the Colonial Office, G. Anthony Atkinson, cited it in 1953 at the inaugural conference on Tropical Architecture in London. He included the plan in the proceedings and advocated Drysdale’s suggestion that bedrooms in hot-dry climates could be lightweight.59 A variation on the design also found its way into David Oakley’s guidebook on Tropical Houses, which was based on Oakley’s experience in the Tropical Building Section of the Building Research Station in England. Oakley, who worked with Atkinson at the brs, was less enthusiastic by 1961, criticizing the single-family dwelling as anti-urban and anti-social for its lack of provision of shade to passersby.60

  • 61 Housing And Home Finance Agency, Application of Climate Data to House Design, Washington DC: U.S. (...)

50The work of the cebs was considered noteworthy abroad for its attention to hot climates and the design advice it produced. Drysdale’s work was referred to both by South African Researchers at the Symposium on Design for Tropical Living in 1957 as well as Victor and Aladar Olgyay in their work on the Bioclimatic Chart and the application of climate data to house design for the Building Research and Advisory Board in the United States.61 As such the output from the Climate and House Design program bridged the gap between discourses of tropical architecture at the end of empire and discourses on bioclimatic architecture in the United States.

  • 62 London, Goad and Hamann claim that by the late 1950’s Australian architects were particularly adep (...)
  • 63 R. K. MacPherson, “Thermal Comfort in Non-Tropical Australian Houses,” Architectural Science Revie (...)
  • 64 Ibid., p. 115.

51Although cebs research gained most attention abroad and largely concentrated on problems associated with heat, it nevertheless considered some aspects of cold climate design, such as insulation and winter sunlight. However, the cebs did not undertake any extensive testing of passive solar homes, for example. While Australian architects, particularly in Melbourne, became quite adept at designing passive solar houses during the early 1950s, they received little assistance from building scientists.62 In 1960, R. K. MacPherson, an expert on fatigue who had trained under DHK Lee, wrote of the need to address problems of thermal comfort in “non-tropical locations in Australian houses.” By this stage, he thought that the design of hot-weather housing had largely been solved but that house design outside of the tropics “presents real difficulties because there are both hot and cold seasons in the year and the house must protect from both heat and cold.”63 MacPherson still emphasized the need to protect from the heat, but argued that “any steps taken to protect from the heat, do not reduce the protection provided from the cold.” He recommended greater use of insulation and more compact dwellings and had little problem using American technical guidelines for Australian conditions. Still a lingering suspicion remained that this was largely in vain. As he concluded, “too often it happens that styles developed overseas are adopted without question in this country and enquiry is not made as to their suitability for the Australian climate.”64 It would seem that little had changed from Lee’s criticisms of tropical housing, some twenty years previously.

Conclusion

52The Climate and House Design program served Australia’s interests both at home and abroad. It can be considered not only a vehicle to nationalize design problems but also one that created communities of interest around the problem of heat. For some time after World War Two, understanding how to mitigate homes against heat served defensive and nation building priorities. The program addressed an imagined design problem, the problem of heat, rather than an imagined geography, such as the tropics. Yet the background to the program shows how the attention given to the problem of heat by researchers in tropical Australia informed much of the early discussions and framing of the program. What had been seen, before World War Two, as a regional problem associated with tropical Australia, was then transformed into a unifying issue common to most of the country. As such, the climate and house design program acted as a bridge between tropical architecture and bioclimatic architecture. For while tropicality, the imagined climatic other of the temperate world, helped shape discourses around tropical architecture, the Climate and House Design program sought its relevance across climates that were both tropical and temperate, or at least acknowledged that the problems of heat dissipation went beyond the tropics.

53The program helped project a form of thermal nationalism by forging alliances with research centers overseas, and directing research at what were considered to be specifically Australian problems, or at least ones that were not being addressed in Britain and the United States at this time. Most overseas researchers drew attention to Drysdale’s work on the upper limits of comfort and the role of perspiration as an indicator of discomfort. Yet the priority given to heat in the program served to project in the minds of the profession both locally and abroad that discomfort largely occurred at high temperatures in Australia.

  • 65 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, “Design for Climate,” Notes on the Science of Building (...)
  • 66 I use the term “First Nations” here to refer to the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Isla (...)

54If the research on climate projected a confidence in Australia’s ability to address its own problems through science, it also masked deep anxieties about European connections to the country. Traces of early twentieth-century European discourses about heat remained. Though the Climate and House Design program was not explicitly framed as a project of white settlement, it still assumed that high temperatures were a threat to the health and comfort of European Australians. Though race was not generally raised as an issue, even in 1950, the first cebs bulletin on Design for Climate opened by noting that “the loss of energy and efficiency experienced by white people in hot climates is difficult to assess, but it is appreciable.”65 The ethnicity or comfort of any other group was never interrogated. First Nations peoples were absent from the whole study.66

55The expectations of the cebs that house design and construction could be climatically purified proved only partly true. The inability to fix on a reliable heat index that worked for all Australian climates meant that researchers could not fully evaluate materials against an agreed norm of comfort. Instead, the program raised questions about what physiological mechanism or state of mind was best used to indicate thermally tolerable conditions, rather than ideal comfortable ones. The dream of a physiologically pure modernity, where each climate had its own house type and plan type, proved illusory. Ultimately, hybrids triumphed and gained most attention abroad.

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Notes

1 See for example Richard Hyde, Bioclimatic Housing: Innovative Designs for Warm Climates, London ; Sterling, VA: Earthscan, 2008 (Balkema-proceedings and monographs in engineering, water, and earth sciences); Vivienne Brophy and J. Owen Lewis, A Green Vitruvius: Principles and Practice of Sustainable Design, [2nd edition], London: Earthscan, 2011; Manfred Hegger (ed.), Energy Manual: Sustainable Architecture, Basel: Birkhauser, 2008.

2 Some notable histories include Jiat-Hwee Chang, “Thermal Comfort and Climatic Design in the Tropics: An Historical Critique,” The Journal of Architecture, vol. 21, no. 8,2016, p. 1171-1202. DOI: 10.1080/13602365.2016.1255907; Or Aleksandrowicz, “Appearance and performance: Israeli building climatology and its effect on local architectural practice (1940-1977),” Architectural Science Review, vol. 60, no. 5, 2017, p. 271-381. DOI: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00038628.2017.1354812; Avigail Sachs, Environmental Design: Architecture, Politics and Science in Post-War America, Charlottesville VA. ; London: University of Virginia Press, 2018, Daniel Barber, Modern Architecture and Climate: Design before Air Conditioning, Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2020,p. 198-245.

3 See Warwick Anderson’s débat piece in this issue and also Daniel J. Ryan, Settling the Thermal Frontier: The Tropical House in Northern Queensland from Federation until the Second World War, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Sydney, Sydney, 2017.

4 Jiat-Hwee Chang, A Genealogy of Tropical Architecture: Colonial Networks, Nature and Technoscience,London ; New York, NY: Routledge, 2016 (The Architext series); Hannah Le Roux, “The Networks of Tropical Architecture,” The Journal of Architecture, vol. 8, no. 3, 2003. DOI : https://doi.org/10.1080/1360236032000134835; Colin Porteous, The New Eco-Architecture: Alternatives from the Modern Movement, London: Spon Press, 2002; Iain Jackson, “Tropical Architecture and the West Indies: from Military Advances and Tropical Medicine to Robert Gardner-Medwin and the Networks of Tropical Modernism,” The Journal of Architecture, vol. 18, no. 2, 2013. DOI : https://doi.org/10.1080/13602365.2016.1204078.

5 Daniel A. Barber, A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016.

6 Walter Bunning, Homes in the Sun: The Past, Present and Future of Australian Housing, Sydney: W. J. Nesbit, 1945, p. 5.

7 Max Freeland, Architecture in Australia: A History, Ringwood: Penguin Books, 1972 (1968), p. 260.

8 Robin Boyd, Australia’s Home: Its Origins, Builders and Occupiers, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1952, p. 198-199.

9 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso, 1991.

10 Schoolchildren across Australia learn the poem My Country by Dorothea Mackellar, written in 1908 in England. She contrasts the pastoral English landscape with her homesickness for Australia which she remembers as “a sunburnt country/a land of sweeping plains.” URL: http://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/archive/mycountry.htm. Accessed 12 February 2021.

11 Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, [First published as Nous n'avons jamais été modernes: Essai d'anthropologie symétrique, Paris : La Découverte, 1991 (Armillaire); trans. By Catherine Porter], Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.

12 On Francis Greenway and Leslie Wilkinson, see Philip Cox and Clive Lucas, Australian Colonial Architecture, Melbourne: Lansdowne Editions, 1978, p. 132-140, 246-252; on Robin Dods, see Robert Riddel, Robin Dods: Selected Works, Brisbane: URO, 2012; on Beni Burnett, see David Bridgman, “Beni Burnett and the Verandah-Houses of the Australian Tropics,” UME, no. 13, 2001, p. 2-7.

13 Stuart Macintyre, Australia’s Boldest Experiment: War and Reconstruction in the 1940s, Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2015, p. 170-180.

14 Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, op. cit. (note 11), p. 10-12.

15 Commonwealth Housing Commission, Final Report, 25th August 1944, Sydney: Government Printer, 1944, p. 288-293.

16 Ibid., p. 89.

17 Geoffrey London, Philip Goad and Conrad Hamann, 150: An Unfinished Experiment in Living: Australian Houses 1950-1965, Perth: UWA Publishing, 2017, p. 42.

18 Commonwealth Housing Commission, Final Report, op. cit. (note 15), p. 89.

19 Ibid., p. 15.

20 For discussion on early twentieth-century histories of race and place in Australia see Russell Mcgregor, “Drawing the Local Colour Line: White Australia and the Tropical North,” The Journal of Pacific History, vol. 47, no. 3, 2012, p. 329-346. DOI : https://doi.org/10.1080/00223344.2012.692549.

21 Raphael W. Cilento, The White Man in the Tropics: with Especial Reference to Australia and its Dependencies, Melbourne: Government Printer, 1925.

22 Stuart Macintyre, Australia’s Boldest Experiment, op. cit. (note 13), p. 92-93, 192.

23 See Reports of a Meeting Held at the Department of Post-War Reconstruction to Consider the Proposal for a Building Research Station, 31st July 1943, 6th August 1943, Canberra (Australia), National Archives of Australia, Department of Post-War Reconstruction Correspondence Files, A9816 1943/1009 Part 1.

24 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, A Brief Explanation of the Organisation and Work of the Station, North Ryde: Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, 1946?, p. 6-8.

25 Jiat-Hwee Chang, A Genealogy of Tropical Architecture, 2016, op. cit. (note 4), p. 166.

26 See Raphael W. Cilento, The White Man in the Tropics with Especial Reference to Australia and its Dependencies, op. cit. (note 21); Douglas H. K. Lee, “The Settlement of Tropical Australia,” The Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 2, no. 21, November 1936, p. 707-712. DOI : https://doi.org/10.5694/j.1326-5377.1936.tb106732.x; Idem, “Assessment of Tropical Climates in Relation to Human Habitation,” Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, vol. 33, no. 6, 1940, p. 601-608. DOI : https://doi.org/10.1016/S0035-9203(40)90020-7;; For a history of tropical medicine’s racial imagination and its links to tropical settlement in Queensland, see Warwick Anderson, The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health and Racial Destiny in Australia, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2005 (2002).

27 Grenfell Ruddock, Building Research Station: Notes on the Scope of the Work and Setup of the Laboratory, 24th August 1943, Canberra (Australia), National Archives of Australia, A9816 1943/1009 Part 1.

28 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, Notes for Discussion No. 2: Climate and House Design, 20th March 1945, Canberra (Australia), National Archive of Australia, A9816, 1943/1009 Part 3.

29 David Arnold, The Tropics and the Travelling Gaze: India, Landscape and Science, 1800-1856, Seattle, WA: Washington University Press, 2006 (Culture, Place, and Nature), p. 35.

30 Roy Macleod, “On Visiting the ʽMoving Metropolis:ʼ Reflections on the Architecture of Imperial Science,”

Historical Records of Australian Science, vol. 5, no. 3, 1982, p. 13. DOI : https://doi.org/10.1071/HR9820530001.

31 H. C. Coombes, Memo from H. C. Coombes to Secretary, Dept of External Affairs, 16th June 1944, Canberra (Australia), National Archives of Australia, A9816 1943/1009 Part 2.

32 For a history of British postwar reconstruction efforts, see Nicholas Bullock, Building the Post-War World: Modern Architecture and Reconstruction in Britain, London ; New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 2002.

33 Committee On Lighting Of Buildings, PWR/Lighting 49: The Effect of Recommendations on the Size of Windows, London: Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1944.

34 Anthony M. Chitty, “ASB Lecture,” The Architects Journal, vol. 99, no. 2579, 1944, p.493.

35 Daniel Barber, A House in the Sun, op. cit. (note 5), p. 21-32.

36 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, Draft Proposal for an Investigation of the Influence of Climate on Small House Design, May? 1945, Canberra (Australia), National Archive of Australia, A9816, 1943/1009 Part 3.

37 Douglas H. K. Lee, “Assessment of Tropical Climates in Relation to Human Habitation,” op. cit. (note 26), p. 612-613.

38 Idem, “Physiological Principles in Hot Weather Housing with Especial Reference to Queensland,” University of Queensland Papers Department of Physiology, vol. 1, no. 8, 1944, p. 8.

39 Idem, Human Climatology and Tropical Settlement: The John Thomson Lecture for 1946, Brisbane: University of Queensland, 1947.

40 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, Draft Proposal for an Investigation of the Influence of Climate on Small House Design, May? 1945, Canberra (Australia), National Archives of Australia, A9816, 1943/1009 Part 3.

41 Commonwealth Housing Commission, First Interim Report, 21st October 1943, p. 15.

42 J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design with Reference to Australian Conditions,” Commonwealth Experimental Station Bulletin, no. 3, 1947, p. iv.

43 Ibid., p. 3.

44 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, Notes for Discussion for Conference of State Housing Technical Liaison Officers called by the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, 14th March 1945, National Archives of Australia, Canberra, A9816 1943/1009 Part 3.

45 Walter Bunning, Homes in the Sun: The Past, Present and Future of Australian Housing, op. cit. (note 6), p. 62. Images of American kitchen designs featured heavily in his book, though sources, such as Architectural Forum, were not always acknowledged.

46 Walter Bunning, Homes in the Sun: The Past, Present and Future of Australian Housing, op. cit. (note 6), p. 58.

47 J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design with Reference to Australian Conditions,” op. cit. (note 42), p. 3.

48 J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design: Summary of Investigations, 1945-1947,” Duplicated Document, no. 21, June 1947, p. 7.

49 Ibid., p. 18.

50 Figures converted from degrees Fahrenheit. See Douglas H. K. Lee, “Physiological Principles in Hot Weather Housing with Especial Reference to Queensland, ” op. cit. (note 38), p. 8.

51 J. W. Drysdale, “Climate & House Design: Physiological Considerations,” Duplicated Document, no. 25, 1948, p. 4.

52 J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design: Summary of Investigations, 1945-1947,” op. cit. (note 48), p. 5.

53 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, Design Factors - Project 89: Physiological considerations in climate-comfort study, July 1947. Sydney (Australia), National Archives of Australia , A9816 1943/1009 Part 4.

54 This debate is discussed in more detail in Jiat-Hwee Chang and Daniel Ryan, “Editorial: Historicizing Entanglements of Architecture and Comfort Beyond the Temperate Zone,” ABE Journal, no. 17, 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/abe.7998.

55 J. W. Drysdale, “Physiological Study no.3: A Further Examination of Discomfort Conditions and the Influence of Radiation from Above,” Technical Study, no. 35, 1951, p. v.

56 J. W. Drysdale, “The Thermal Behaviour of Dwellings: A Review of Experimental Work to March, 1950,” Technical Study, no. 34, 1950, p. 33-35.

57 See for example the Breuer House II, New Canaan, Connecticut (1948); Rose Seidler House, Wahroonga, nsw(1948).

58 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, “Design for Climate: Some Notes on the Design of Domestic Buildings for the Hot Arid and Hot Humid Climates of Australia,” in Notes on the Science of Building, no. SB1, August 1949, p. 3.

59 George Anthony Atkinson, “Tropical Architecture and Building Standards,” in Conference on Tropical Architecture, London: University College London, 1953.

60 David Oakley, Tropical Houses: A Guide to their Design, London: B.T. Batsford, 1961, p. 133.

61 Housing And Home Finance Agency, Application of Climate Data to House Design, Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 1954.

62 London, Goad and Hamann claim that by the late 1950’s Australian architects were particularly adept at designing passive solar houses and that the model was quite popular among modernists. See Geoffrey London, Philip Goad and Conrad Hamann, 150: An Unfinished Experiment in Living, op. cit. (note  17), p. 47.

63 R. K. MacPherson, “Thermal Comfort in Non-Tropical Australian Houses,” Architectural Science Review, vol. 3, n° 3, 1960, p. 110. DOI : https://doi.org/10.1080/00038628.1960.9696003.

64 Ibid., p. 115.

65 Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, “Design for Climate,” Notes on the Science of Building, SB1, 1950, p. 1.

66 I use the term “First Nations” here to refer to the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and identities. See also Australian Government, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples,” Style Manual, 4th March 2021, URL : https://www.stylemanual.gov.au/format-writing-and-structure/inclusive-language/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples#first_nations_diversity_is_reflected_throughout_australia Accessed 12 March 2021.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Solar Planning of Domestic Activity, 1944.
Crédits Source: Commonwealth Housing Commission, Final Report, 25th August 1944, Sydney: Government Printer, 1944, p. 298.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/9848/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 137k
Titre Figure 2: Commonwealth Housing Commission Proposed Sub-Tropical House, 1944.
Crédits Source: Commonwealth Housing Commission, Final Report: 25th August, 1944, Sydney: Government Printer, 1944, p. 291.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/9848/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 267k
Titre Figure 3: Mapping of effective temperature and relative humidity of Queensland towns in relation to the comfort zone, 1944.
Crédits Source: Douglas H. K. Lee, “Physiological Principles in Hot Weather Housing with Especial Reference to Queensland,” University of Queensland Papers Department of Physiology, vol. 1, no. 8, 1944, p. 12.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/9848/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 518k
Titre Figure 4: Broad Classification of Australian Climates, 1947.
Crédits Source: J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design: Summary of Investigations, 1945-1947,” Duplicated Document, no. 21, June 1947, p. 33.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/9848/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 363k
Titre Figure 5: Test Hut, Climate and House Design Program, August 1945.
Crédits Source: J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design: Summary of Investigations 1945-1947,” Duplicated Document, no. 21, June 1947, p. 34.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/9848/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 291k
Titre Figure 6: Test huts in Mildura, 1946?
Crédits Source: J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and House Design: Summary of Investigations 1945-1947,” Duplicated Document, no. 21, June 1947, plate 2.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/9848/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 175k
Titre Figure 7: Model Test Huts at the cebs, Ryde, nsw, 1948?
Crédits Source: J. W. Drysdale, “The Thermal Characteristics of Model Structure, Investigations to March, 1948,” Duplicated Document no. 26, 1948, plate 2.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/9848/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 501k
Titre Figure 8: Thermal Behaviour Chart, 1950.
Crédits Source: J. W. Drysdale, “Climate and Design of Buildings, The Thermal Behaviour of Dwellings, A Review of Experimental Work to March, 1950,” Technical Study, no. 34, December 1950, p. 39.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/9848/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 448k
Titre Figure 9: Hot-Arid House showing the combined use of light and heavyweight construction.
Crédits Source: Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, “Design for Climate: Some notes on the Design of Domestic Buildings for the Hot Arid and Hot Humid Climates of Australia,” Notes on the Science of Building, n° SB1, 1950, p. 4.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/9848/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 89k
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Daniel J. Ryan, « Thermal Nationalism: the Climate and House Design Program in Australia (1944-1960) »ABE Journal [En ligne], 18 | 2021, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2021, consulté le 28 janvier 2023. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/abe/9848 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/abe.9848

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Daniel J. Ryan

Lecturer, The University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning, Sydney, Australia

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