Hand in Hand with Crossed Top Plates: Mapping the Contribution of Chinese Carpenters to the Production and Installation of Melbourne's Prefabricated 'Singapore Cottages'

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review

Abstract

There are four nineteenth century prefabricated timber ’Singapore Cottages’ on one property in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood. Initially on different sites, they were dismantled, transported and erected elsewhere in the city before coming to Collingwood. Originally imported in knocked-down form during the 1850s, they addressed Melbourne’s population surges and lack of builders. Manufactured with Southeast Asian timber by colonial British firms in Singapore, their prefabricated architecture and construction displayed modern European influences. However, vernacular approaches are also evident as their intermediate roof beams suggesting Malay carpenters. Chinese characters on the structure suggest the involvement of Chinese carpenters. The walls use crossed top and bottom plates and scarf joints, common in colonial-period ethnic-Chinese carpentry in Southeast Asia. Nonetheless, these details contrast with vernacular timber architecture in China, suggesting complex origins. This new research will inform the cottages’ established history, by exploring the identity of the cottages’ carpenters and their carpentry origins.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesign and the Vernacular
Subtitle of host publicationInterpretations for Contemporary Architectural Practice and Theory
EditorsPaul Memmott, John Ting, Tim O'Rourke, Marcel Vellinga
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Chapter11
Pages193-212
Number of pages20
Edition1
ISBN (Electronic)9781350294325
ISBN (Print)9781350294301
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

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