Throwback Thursday: The house that won Noel his first Royal Institute of Architects Award

nuts and berries style of architecture

In 1970 a German family approached Noel Robinson to design a house for their river block in Kenmore, in the western suburbs of Brisbane. The family had seen the nearby Bowden residence, also designed by Noel, and were interested in the natural venturi ventilation.

The design of the house was inspired by the movie “Blow Up” starring Vanessa Redgrave, in which a photographer works in a studio with inserted planes. The house was designed in the “Nuts and Berries” style of architecture, which was evolving in Sydney and Melbourne at the time. The style used bricks, timber and natural materials creating a feeling of warmth in the houses. It was low maintenance and designed to fit in with the bushland surroundings. The 2.5-acre lush bushland site selected by the Roehr’s was undulating, with a small footprint resulting in limited land access to build on.

nuts and berries style of architecture

The site was restricted by a council open space zoning of 1.5 chains set back on the river side and sloped steeply to the west and also to the river. The house was orientated north/south to build across the steep westerly slope and as close to the river as possible, to take advantage of the views, and the natural breezes which come down the valley from the north and from the south-east off the river.

Mezzanine floors were placed into the open space as required and connected with a catwalk. The open space and ventilation aspect posed certain noise zone problems, which were overcome by separating the bedrooms by noise-reducing zones. The main bedroom faces the river and has a high east window for morning light.

The Roehrs at the time had three children, two boys and a girl, and preferred separate bedrooms for them with a communal dormitory playroom. The parents’ room was to be separated with private bathing facilities.

nuts and berries style of architecture

The kitchen was expandable onto the courtyard for summer meals. Main living spaces opened onto the riverside and expanded onto the outdoor terrace. A simple conventional structure was evolved for economics and thus two simple parapet walls with a modulated open trussed system were used to span between the support and the roof.

This 4-bedroom residence was awarded the Residential Citation by the Queensland Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects, “because of its utmost simplicity of plan, judicious economy of structure and its lack of intrusion in its bushland setting. Its design commends itself to the discriminating housewatcher. The exterior successfully combines clinker bricks with dark roof tiles and stained timber. Internally a generous sense of space has been created and unified by the repetition of open timber roof trusses.”

nuts and berries style of architecture

Pic: Australian Women’s Weekly November 1971: Source Facebook

The house was featured in Australian Women’s Weekly in 1971.

Additional details recorded in the original article from Architecture in Australia June 1973 p 97

Area of site: 2.5 acres Density: 2 ppa Photographs: Richard Edwin Stringer

Overall dimensions: 53 ft long x 21 ft wide

Number of floors: ground and first Total area of building: 1744 sq ft (ground floor 862 sq ft: first floor 882 sq ft)

Structure: load bearing brickwork parapet walls; concrete slab on ground floor; timber framed and sheeted first floor; open structural timber truss system at 3 ft centres; windows timber framed glazed sashes, sliding into cavity and also hinged sashes.

nuts and berries style of architecture


Walls: external 14 in cavity clinker brickwork, natural finish. Internal single skin VJ T&G partitions 7 ft high Floors: ground 9 in x 9 in x 1 in p.g.h. brick paving tiles. First 6 in x 1 in T&G hwd Ceilings: ground U/S of first floor. First 6 in x 1 in T&G hwd Hoof: terra cotta chocolate tiles Services: all electric

Overall costs: $ 16,100 excluding future carport, i.e., $925 per square

nuts and berries style of architecture

Image: The Roehrs Residence today: Source Facebook