Since living in Darwin, I have been amazed at how unsuited the current residential and commercial architecture is to the climate.
The air is thick and humid in the tropics, the heat extreme, the wet is a welcome relief from the heat however it can be torrential, and extreme dust in the dry season. It is essential that air flows to cool things down but also for insects, as the tropics are a haven for mosquitoes. The environment is demanding especially on man-made environments.
* Elevation – prevent ants, vehicle shelter, play area, laundry, security, dust, and dissipation
These themes represent a typology that we sometimes associate with typical tropical architecture but nonetheless a common sense typology that is still relevant today.
An example of pre-Cyclone Tracey typical tropical architecture is Burnett House at Myilly Point that survived the Cyclone and the World War Two bombing.
Designing for the tropics
Stretching west down Myilly Point [in east-central Darwin] is a group of four tropical houses designed in 1937 by B.C.G. Burnett, principal Government Architect for the Northern Territory. His previous experience in China and Malaya enabled him to understand the local climate. He designed elevated houses with steep- pitched roofs and open eaves to catch the refreshing sea breezes. Further innovations included replacing the external walls with asbestos-cement [ie., fibrolite] louvres that could be adjusted according to the weather conditions. The living areas and bedrooms were separated by three-quarter height partitions to allow for cross-ventilation. Burnett's practical and aesthetic designs established a regional architectural style that continues to influence contemporary housing designs.
My study does not consider urban density for example, tropical architecture for high density apartment blocks which is important for the future. It primarily looks at single dwelling structures. However, with future trends in architecture such as the invention of new materials and the use of new technologies perhaps tropical architecture will evolve into another typology that will be more suited to urban density amid the increased population forecasts.
The environmental factors must be taken into account when designing for the tropics and its extremities in weather but why has this been forgotten over the last few decades?