Conrad Gargett Conserves Queensland’s State-listed Kitawah – a Robin Dods’ Masterpiece

With over 125 years of experience, multi-disciplinary design practice Conrad Gargett is highly conversed with the conservation and adaptive repurposing of buildings and sites of historical significance both in Australia and overseas. Most recently, the practice was commissioned to respectfully repair, restore, conserve and extend the Robin Dods’ masterpiece Kitawah and upgrade its manicured grounds in Brisbane Queensland.

Designed and constructed in 1911 and extended c1916, Kitawah was crafted by celebrated Queensland architect Robin Dods (1868-1920) during his 20 year tenure with architectural firm Hall and Dods in Brisbane. The timber dwelling with terracotta roof surrounded by landscaped gardens demonstrates an early 20th century affluent domestic house and exhibits many of the defining attributes that distinguishes Dods’ renowned residential works.

David Gole, Principal of Conrad Gargett with expertise in the field of heritage and conservation, stated, “It was our privilege to work closely and collaboratively with our client on this property which has historical significance to Queensland. Our working relationship and combined efforts were focused on the most appropriate outcome for the house, as well as ensuring it remains a prominent and enduring state treasure.”

The comprehensive brief ensured the property retained its current and original position on the top contour of the prominent site in Brisbane. Through careful excavation, the house was tactfully enlarged by building bedrooms, car accommodation and other additions under the original footprint. A swimming pool was inconspicuously positioned on the eastern side at the rear of the property complemented by extensive landscaping circumnavigating the dwelling.

Conrad Gargett Associate David Oliver who worked on the project explained, “The Burra Charter principle of changing as much as necessary with Kitawah but as little as possible was applied at the outset and maintained through all stages of the project. Preservation of original building proportions was a core focus and deliverable. All new work is clearly distinguishable from existing by changes in materiality. The works were guided by key issues and conservation policies identified in the Conservation Management Plan and paint colour study prepared by Conrad Gargett.”

The client highlighted, “Many people within our community have long admired the property and seen it as an integral part of the local built environment.” “Conrad Gargett was able to provide advice regarding how the house might be best preserved and restored to respect its heritage, but at the same time assist with design concepts to enable the property to meet modern living standards.”

“Conrad Gargett was meticulous in the detail of their research of the history of Kitawah which strongly informed the renovations, whilst also helping to design necessary extensions which did not compromise the heritage aspects of the home. The practice’s knowledge, experience and specific understanding of Robin Dods’ architecture ensured a respectful, tasteful and liveable home to emerge from the project.”

Kitawah’s prominent rooms and verandahs were preserved, including the fine ‘piazza’ or verandah room on the north east corner. The original kitchen with fireplace and servant’s room was consolidated into one spacious kitchen off the rear verandah which connects to the wash house, landscaped yard and swimming pool. The levels were linked by the installation of a new internal staircase. The new level underneath value-adds to the property and complements the historical, heritage and cultural values of the house and grounds. A grand urban residence with modern amenity suitable for private living with the flexibility for functions was created.