Straddie's shack-life celebrated by Brisbane architects


There's something different about North Stradbroke Island; small shacks, quiet streets and a lifestyle that values less rather than more.

The architecture of Stradbroke Island, or Minjerribah, is a reflection of its community and history, full of ramshackle add-ons with different materials tacked together, large unfenced blocks and a holiday feel.$zoom_0.224%2C$multiply_1.5109%2C$ratio_1.776846%2C$width_1059%2C$x_0%2C$y_54/t_crop_custom/q_62%2Cf_auto/e8a73407ded670c69cfd16a6c45e2271373fe7f5
Shaun Lockyer's Straddie shack can comfortably house up to eleven people.

Some of the island's architects - big names in the industry - have set about celebrating the uniqueness of Straddie, from its unchanging lifestyle to the community that makes sure it stays that way.

On the weekend, architects Shaun Lockyer, Paul Butterworth and Justin O’Neill hosted a tour of Straddie's shacks, as part of the Brisbane Open House program.

Lockyer, who owns his own shack on the island, said Straddie's seaside landscapes and isolation from the mainland meant permanent residents were often of several generations in the same family, rubbing shoulders with the short-term holidaymakers.

"No one wants to be that person on Straddie with the biggest house on Straddie. You aspire to the exact opposite."Shaun Lockyer

The weekend tour paid tribute to that, through its showcase of several houses of differing size, material and planning, but similar themes - ease of living, a relaxed lifestyle and eclectic style.

"This idea of Straddie's houses being an amalgamation of eclectic, different styles ... is quite common, or certainly all four houses that were discussed," Lockyer said.

"There's the idea that houses are pavilions or cells rather than just being one big structure, which is something that is quite different from Brisbane.

"And not least of which, the size of the houses are materially smaller even though the bulk of the time they're housing more people."

Lockyer pointed to his own Stradbroke home as an example. His Brisbane residence, housing up to eight people, is about 375 square metres.

By contrast, his Stradbroke shack comfortably houses 11 people in just 137 square metres.

"That transient nature of a holiday home means that people embrace something that's perhaps a little bit more quirky than they would in their normal lives," Lockyer said.

Straddie's combination of permanent residences and holiday homes, its isolation, and heritage of generations of families returning to the island each year has given it a community that, Lockyer says, has created an architectural theme of "sympathetic neglect".

A shack might start out as a pair of fibro rooms before several years later, the owner decides to add a second bedroom, using different materials. A car port might be next, or a new kitchen, creating a haphazard home - comfortable, relaxed and easy to use.$zoom_0.12%2C$multiply_2.0847%2C$ratio_0.666667%2C$width_378%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_62%2Cf_auto/9bdcb5e54fbd8362794540925b45af3e68782681
"Sympathetic neglect" is Straddie's architectural theme, says Lockyer.

It certainly isn't a place where a Gold Coast-style mansion would be welcomed.

"No one wants to be that person on Straddie with the biggest house on Straddie. You aspire to the exact opposite," Lockyer said.

The nature of Stradbroke's buildings, their multi-material and multi-era constructions, and the future of the island's style, Lockyer credits largely to the island's builders and tradies.

"There's an extraordinary depth of incredible talent and passion and craftsmanship, and old-school attitudes towards the way they conduct themselves, which is an absolute joy to work with, to be a part of," he said.

"I think as long as those guys keep doing what they're doing, the overwhelming sense of care and love for the place will ensure all houses will respond appropriately to place."