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

Roehr residenceThrowback Thursday: Roehr Residence: The house that won Noel his first Royal Institute of Architects Award

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, 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.


Roehr residence

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.


Roehr residence

Image: the barn like interior with voidal space to create light

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.”


Roehr residence

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.Roehr residence


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

Roehr residence

Image: The Roehrs Residence today: Source Facebook




  • Emma Scragg

    Our happy home for 16 years immediately after the Roehrs and then sold on to my friends in 2000 who are the current owners. More an architectural statement full of character than a subtropical, climate responsive , daylight-filled house. As an architect now (studied while I lived there and was probably inspired down that path from growing up in an unconventional home), I absolutely avoid box gutters especially in bush settings. Practicality aside, we loved it.

  • Sarah Scragg

    lovely to see these old write ups on the house. We bought it in e early 80,s and my parents added the first extension. Although a dark house to live in we loved it as kids, it was like living in a big tree house.

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