About Face is an industry-run competition, seeking innovatve proposals in regard to urban development in Australia.
TERROIR designed the competition in consultation with the industry in 2007. This year, we have been invited to enter.
The idea that architects, via design proposals, can change the fundamental desires of the Australian population to live in the suburbs in houses of ever-increasing scale is a myth.
The drivers behind our suburban life relate to deeply-ingrained cultural and social attitudes and cannot be changed by the demonstration of alternate models. In fact, many such models exist which, despite their positive reception by the architectural community, have had no impact on the suburbs. To suggest again that a proposal for an alternate project home can change society attitudes is naïve.
The only models that have been successful have been for inner-city urban sites where the clientele are architects or similarly educated groups within the population. While these boutique projects may have been successful among those groups, the greater question of the project home for the wider population remains unchanged.
We therefore propose a direct answer to this brief in the form of a new project home which offers not so much an alternate model to what exists but a transformation. This transformation works within the current project home typology and as such responds to the desires for scale, space and site coverage which drive the project home industry.
CURRENT HOUSE TYPE
The project home has been getting bigger and bigger over the past decades. A perusal of many project home providers will reveal that many homes on the current market exceed 400 sq.m. in size.
This situation is not going to change without major regulatory intervention by Government or a massive change in consumption patterns by the general population. The relationship between the greater emergence of environmental issues and consumer behaviour over the past decades confirms that little will change without Government intervention.
We therefore start with the existing project home size and look for the potential WITHIN this model rather than proposing new ones.
CURRENT PLOT SIZE
Despite mounting evidence that increasing land releases at the fringes of our major cities is further eroding food supply, stressing infrastructure and limiting the mobility of those who live there, both sides of Government continue to place land releases as the centre of their affordability policies.
CURRENT SUBURBAN LANDSCAPE
This combination of large houses and small sites has created a brick landscape which is firmly placed in the minds of the population as their ideal image of a suburb and where they would like to live. Therefore, we have accepted also this idea of a brick landscape as the basis for our project.
A STEALTH APPROACH
Given the above, we propose a STEALTH approach to the problem, working on the project home from within the system rather than suggesting alternative versions to it. By adopting this approach, we take a more realistic view of the current situation - far from the misplaced idealism that a new project home can transform cultural and social patterns which show no sign of change.
Core to this approach is a recovery of what we have lost over the past two decades of project home development. By looking inside the current project home for these opportunities, we hope to make a radical transformation precisely because we start with exactly the same template.
This transformation is driven by an examination of the current project homes as outlined below.
During our childhood, project homes were relatively small, and outside space was plentiful, both in backyards and in remnant woodlands that sat undisturbed between the suburbs. The suburb was considered a safe place where children roamed free and neighbours chatted over the back fence.
However, these memories of summer evenings playing cricket on the street have given way to desolate streets where all activity occurs inside the ever-increasing project home. Neighbours no longer have an easy contact given the privacy of current housing types and children are never seen on the street. The car reigns supreme and some suburbs now do not even have footpaths.
Inside the project home, an ever increasing array of theatre rooms, multi-purpose rooms, and massive bedrooms, have become the play spaces of the suburb. Cricket and running around the street have been substituted for Playstation. Child obesity continues to increase while our political landscape increases in a conservatism borne of the possibility to shut out anyone but your own kind from your suburban world.