“Mullet Run” Part Two: what I learnt about sub-tropical design

In the last e-newsletter, I promised to share “part two” of my recent discoveries from the “Mullet Run” adventure through South Africa, Brazil, Sao Paulo: sub-tropical design.

(In case you missed it, Part One was about BIMread it here)

The purpose of this trip was to foster a number of cross cultural relationships with universities and architectural practices – for joint research, creativity and innovation in architecture.

If you travel from Brisbane, across the southern hemisphere between 27 to 30 degrees’ latitude, you’ll find yourself in Durban, South Africa and Florianopolis, in Brazil, with a lot of ocean in between.

Like Brisbane, both major cities are located on the east-coast of their continent, surrounded by a large ocean expanse (arguably the best beaches in the world) and a north-to-south running current. To the west, each city is protected by a mountain range. These conditions – common only to these three cities in the world – produce a remarkably similar climatic response.

In each city, I spent time with architects, engineers and academics specialising in climatically sensitive and sustainable design – including Roberto Lamberts, and his colleague Ricardo Luther, who respectively head the innovative Bio Climatic and Building Energy Efficiency Systems programs with the Federal University of Florianopolis and Federal University of Santa Catarina.

My time in South Africa was spent observing the natural environment and the architectural response, with a week in Durban, and a few days between Johannesburg and Cape Town. Likewise, in Brazil I spent a week in Florianopolis, with a few days in Sao Paulo.

In light of this, my mission was to explore:

  • how different cultures respond to the same topography and climatic conditions?
    how my observations about the local South East Queensland environment in a ‘Diary for Day Dreamers’ translate in these areas?
  • what we can learn about sub-tropical architecture from our counterparts in Durban and Florianopolis?

So, based on my new learnings from this amazing expedition…

How do different cultures settle and occupy land in essentially the same topography and climatic conditions? And, how did my ‘Diary for Day Dreamers’ observations translate in these areas?

We have an extraordinary amount in common with our other sub-tropical neighbours – particularly our lifestyles and work experience, in addition to the climate and architectural response.

Interestingly, Durban’s wide expanses of rolling hills and sugar cane felt remarkably similar to Childers, whilst Florianopolis’ fresh water lakes, sand dunes and fine sandy beaches were much like Stradbroke Island.

We should share far more information about climate and architecture between these sub-tropical regions, so we can all improve our own local response.

For example, Brazil’s approach to urban sprawl is architecturally sensitive and focussed on lifestyle, function and aesthetic appeal. This solution is far more engaging and environmentally responsive than mass-produced suburban housing precincts.

What we can learn about the approach to sub-tropical architecture in Durban and Florianopolis?

At Fulton Trotter Architects, we have always prioritised sub-tropical design in our work, as encouraged by my father Stephen Trotter in the early years of practice. Our understanding of sub-tropical design is one of our fundamental strengths.

However, we must learn from other regions to ensure we continue to evolve and improve.

There is a growing need for Bio Climatic Design consultation to occur hand-in-hand with architecture, where the fundamentals of climatic design are NOT understood. This has been demonstrated successfully by Andrea Mondes at DUX architects, who consults to Brazilian and Columbian architects, and their clients, to assist in the design process.

In my opinion, Queensland architecture is the world leader in sub-tropic design.
Our love for the sub-tropical lifestyle is supported by a culture of universities and practices such as QUT’s Centre for Sub-Tropical Design that constantly innovate to enhance the spaces we live, work and play in each day.

I’ve only just scratched the surface here on what was an incredibly enriching tour. If you’d like to know more about our approach to sub-tropical design, I’m available for a coffee and a chat anytime!

* The “Diary for Day Dreamers” is a diary that allows you to record observations about the subtle seasonal changes in the local South East Queensland climate and landscape.

Left: Driving into Durban from King Shaka International Airport – reminded Paul of Childers, Queensland
Right: Paul Trotter Sketch “Bottle Brush Dive Bomb”