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New Caledonian domestic colonial architecture

Maison Célières : New Caledonian domestic colonial architecture

Although there is no uniquely New Caledonian style of colonial architecture, there are nevertheless common features which reflect constraints imposed by the local climate (heat and humidity, resistance to cyclones) and the often limited resources available for building.

Colonial houses, built on naturally sloping land to avoid any need for earthworks, are flush with the ground at the rear and rest on stone basements or plain brick piers forming cellars or underfloor spaces. The gabled or hipped roofs are generally made from corrugated steel imported from Australia. Timber was also much used as a building material; it was inexpensive and ideally suited to withstanding the violent tropical cyclones which hit the colony: unlike masonry, wood is very flexible.

Distinctive features common to this style of architecture: verandas (a porch formed by an extension of the roof), symmetrically placed windows and doors and shutters, are all solutions designed to enhance ventilation and keep houses cool inside.

Another characteristic shared by New Caledonian colonial houses is the use of decorative details to embellish and add sophistication to the simple building materials: ornamental roof ridges, balustrades, brackets with quatrefoil detailing, metal valances, stained glass.

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Texts and illustrations: Association Témoignage d’un Passé © 2016