Graz University of Technology (AUSTRIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 1962-1971
ISBN: 978-84-613-5538-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
Since the turn of the 20th century Australia’s metropolitan areas have experienced continuous economic growth as well as a significant increase in population. Melbourne is a typical example of this development with population figures in 2009 reaching the four million mark which is an increase by half a million people in just 5 years. The largest population growth is happening in the outer suburban fringes where ‘greenfield’ housing developments offer a cheaper alternative to inner-city living and are increasingly putting pressure on the environment.

The ‘quarter acre home and garden for every family’ as the traditional idea of habitation is based on a standard-sized subdivision of land into quarter acre lots preferably covered by single-storey detached houses and can be seen as the ‘Australian Dream’. Hence, the extensive and fast-paced spreading of low-density housing has led to large urban footprints and a high level of car dependency as infrastructural development such as public transport is unable to keep up with urban sprawl.

In 2000, a government planning policy framework known as ‘Melbourne 2030: planning for sustainable growth’ has been introduced to reduce urban sprawl, redirect new development and protect areas of open space. However, criticism arose because of poor implementation and continuous extension of the defined urban growth boundaries.

As part of my architectural studies at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology I undertook research of Melbourne’s outer suburban and semi-rural areas and its demographic structure. As a result of this study and a reaction to the increasing demand for habitable space I proposed a space-conscious yet flexible housing scheme for a specific location with a strong focus on community and environmental aspects.

Houses are grouped in linear clusters of eight to ten, generally following the row house typology and form a well-defined yet permeable boundary between existing township and adjacent ecosystem in order to limit urban sprawl and increase the value of environmentally sensitive areas. Since the design concept of each individual unit is based on the idea of dual-occupancy it allows for changing household structures and functional needs. Units consist of two parts and a central courtyard which can be used or rented out individually as well as in combination as the family grows.

The concept offers little private open space in favour of public shared areas that enhance inhabitant interaction such as community gardens. Furthermore the development aims to establish a close connection to the existing suburban fabric which can be achieved through numerous small interventions that function as activity centres along a pedestrian link.

This experiment is not only providing habitable space taking into account key issues of ‘Melbourne 2030’ but also attempting to initiate a different approach to spatial planning amongst authorities and developers and to offer a much-needed alternative to the typical Australian home.
Research project, architecture, urban planning, sustainability, Australia.