University of Tasmania
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The forgotten long span timber structures of Australia.

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posted on 2023-05-26, 01:49 authored by Gregory NolanGregory Nolan
This research begins to gauge the extent and quality of long span or structurally unique timber building in Australia and to evaluate the conditions that lead to that building. Before this research, professional knowledge about Australian experience with timber construction had been limited to historic wooden structures built before 1915 and to the personal knowledge of individual practitioners. Sixty years of experience and development in building with timber in Australia seem unrecognised or unknown. This ignorance necessarily restricts current professional practice in timber construction as Australian designers can only draw inspiration from their immediate experience, their knowledge of local heritage structures or from international publications. This paper identifies five separate construction cycles of long span or stmctural unique timber structures in Australia, establishes the main practitioners of each cycle, explores the reasons for each cycle's rise and decline and outlines the architectural and technical advances made. These cycles are: ‚Äö the Timber Bridge Cycle that began in 1860 and ended 1915. This cycle saw extensive timber bridge and building construction throughout Australia. The cycle is named after the network of timber bridges built throughout inland Australia. ‚Äö the Pacific War Cycle. This began in 1942 and ran to that war's end in 1945. It was a period of national reliance on wood and probably the most intense period of practical engineering and architectural experimentation in timber in Australian history. The longest span, the most vruied and the most diverse timber structures in Australian history were built during this period. ‚Äö the Postwar Reconstruction Cycle. This cycle began in 1950 and ended in 1961. It coincided with the major industrial expansion of the 1950's and saw detailed experimentation with plywood and with the glue laminated arch form. ‚Äö the Australian Regionalist Cycle. Led by architects, this cycle began in 1962 and ended in 1975. It saw timber accepted as a desirable aesthetic and structural alternative to man made materials such as steel and concrete. The designers of this period experimented with a wide range of structural forms and techniques in timber. ‚Äö the Portal Frame Cycle. This cycle began in 1984 and came to a close in 1992. Exploiting the volume of industrial and commercial construction of the time, initially engineers embraced timber construction, refining the structural technologies of timber portal frame buildings. Subsequently the cycle broadened to include architects. As each of these cycles contains its own key long span structures (or exemplars), this paper examines twenty four of these in detail.


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Copyright the Author-(Master of Architecture)

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