A New Routine

‘High-density’ and ‘infill’ are buzz words when discussing new development in Perth. Judging by the number of new apartments that are cropping up in inner city low density suburbs one would assume that there is a massive range of dwellings awaiting there purchase by millennials and genY’. However this isn’t the case. The discussion surrounding Perth’s oversupply of apartments tends to focus on the pain of investors who are having problems with selling in the saturated market[1]… is the post mining boom blues really the extent of the problem, or is there something more fundamentally wrong with how our demands are being met? We need and want a more a more socially and environmentally sustainable alternative to the low density sprawling suburbs, however we cannot demand a change in built environment without expecting a change in our everyday, our routine.

Various power structures; social, economic or anthropogenic-ecological all manifest within our current built environments and continue to do so in even in what is framed as the high-density ‘solution’ to sprawl. “The form of the house is thus the most tangible manifestation of economy, the framing of spaces within walls is dictated not only by a spatial symbolism, the aim of which is to sustain and reinforce the “natural” relationships within the family…”[2] The traditional way houses and interiors are designed both represent and reinforce the interpersonal connections of the family- as a structure based on tradition and authority. Though the gendered spaces in new plans of single family homes and units have made slow transforms over time (ie open plan centralized kitchen living spaces) the sheer list of rooms that are expected to be filled with time saving consumer product is a sign that the position of women as the lone unpaid domestic labor still echoes through the design. [3] Individualist capitalism manifests within new development plans; kitchens, sculleries, double carports, home washing machines all mean individual labor.

Fig 1. 2018 ‘The Phoenix’ Satterley home plan.
Fig 2. 1869 Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The American Woman’s Home or Principles of Domestic Science.

The push for this structure to change can by no means be accredited to modern feminist and democratic expectation, In 1869 Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book; ‘The American Woman’s Home’ contained an architectural response where a simplified floor plan with service core loosened gender and social roles within the house- spaces the uses assigned to them are no longer stable.[4]  During the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century the ‘Material feminists’ worked to reshape their built domestic environment to challenge traditional family roles understanding that capitalism is central to oppression. The train of thought of collective housing and ownership was also explored in the 2016 British Pavilion; Home Economics, curators Jack Self, Shumi Bose and Finn Williams called for architects to look beyond housing typologies, and to instead develop new financial models for housing; ‘If we pool our resources we can have a better quality of life, which is also true in housing: if we are prepared to share, rather than insist on each having their own, we can have more.’[5]

Fig 3. Home Economics; House for Hours, Featuring a huge transparent wardrobe filled with items ranging from vacuum cleaners to clothing and artworks, the room questions what items people would be willing to share.

To transplant any one of the co-living projects that are currently underway in Europe into our context would be completely naive to the complexity of Perth’s condition. We can start by thinking about our day to day routine and individual interactions with our material world. Though I am undeniably part of the social media ‘activist’ generation, where little is discerned between spreading ‘awareness and any real action. While conversations about such change is loud and frequent among my peers, ideas constantly being ‘liked’ or ‘shared’ it is important that once (if ever) we do have the option to ‘own’ a dwelling we consider that that means. If hold on to these ambitions, don’t be distracted by the temptation to invest in sprawling property, there is hope that our demands are one day met. As I return to my share house tonight, to my ‘family’ that in no way resembles whom this house was designed for; a messy home whose transient occupants has blurred the boundaries of ownership of its ambiguous objects… I cannot help but think that maybe this mode of dwelling is a pretty good way to prepare for the future typology that I hope for. A representation of a midpoint- both in my life as an adult and in Perth’s building typology. We can take real action on our demands now, the ripples caused by changes in how we interact with each other, what we own, what we share will cause a wave that will transform how we dwell.

[1]Wynne, Emma. 2017 ‘Perth unit owners in for prolonged market pain as oversupply predicted to last years’ ABC News  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-08/perth-unit-owners-in-for-prolonged-market-pain-amid-slow-market/8781630  Accessed 27/03/19

[2] Aureli, Pier Vittorio. 2014. “The Dom-Ino Problem: Questioning The Architecture Of Domestic Space”. Log 30: 153-168.

[3] “Dolores Hayden: “Grand Domestic Revolution: Recovering the Forgotten History of Feminism and Housing Design.”. 2014. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39xNeMVDfDA. Accessed 27/03/19

[4] Aureli, Pier Vittorio. 2014. “The Dom-Ino Problem: Questioning The Architecture Of Domestic Space”. Log 30: 153-168.

[5] Le Versha, Kate. 2016 ‘Jack Self on Hours for Home Economics’ British Council https://design.britishcouncil.org/blog/2016/may/17/jack-self-hours/ accessed 27/03/19

Cover; Taken by Sarah Brooke

Fig1; HOUSE AND LAND PACKAGES CLARKSON, 2019. https://satterley.com.au/catalina/house-and-land-clarkson accessed 27/03/19

Fig 2; Research Gate, 2018 https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Catharine-Beecher-and-Harriet-Beecher-Stowe-The-American-Womans-Home-or-Principles-of_fig1_277581292 accessed 27/03/19

Fig 3; Deezeen, 2016 ‘Home Economics’, https://www.dezeen.com/2016/05/26/home-economics-british-pavilion-venice-architecture-biennale-2016-uk-housing/ accessed 27/03/19