It was pretty gnarly, the backyard – although tiny – it was a ripper, he was stoked with his new one bed, one bath cottage home. There was air-con too – what a steal and his couch had a stubby holder, it looks just like the guy’s next door, but what more could this middle-class bloke want?
In our stereotypical Australian ‘Culture’ it could be safe to say that most Australians are living in this ‘carefree’ lackadaisical lifestyle. A lot of Perth’s architecture is based on a certain modernism that has nothing to do with Perth as a city, its history, its makeup or its identity. As Robin Boyd Describes it: “There is no Australian character in building and display and product-design… Australian ugliness is not only unique in several ways but is also worse than most other countries’ kinds.” Consequently, the term architecture in this context is quite meaningless and completely subjective to its beholder. To our city as a whole however, architecture has become a means by which it organises its clutter of people and now, we as a collective are categorised in shoe boxes – ranging from RM William Boots to – pretty much anything less.
What job you do and how many zeros tail the first digits of your salary dictates where you live and what you build there. This leads to a very distinct and patterned fashion of conglomerating all the wealthy in demographically delineated areas of the city. Our famous coastline along with views of the Swan River and proximity to our city skyline establish a set of rules by which have formed a geometric layout for our city and suburbs. This rigid layout delineates and dictates what is seen as ‘good architecture’. In Perth’s affluent areas the architect’s role is to bring to life the vision and desire of the client. In this way much of the client’s identity, culture, and preferences are reflected in the design and the architect has a responsibility to bring all factors together and make such a dream a reality.
On the other end of the scale, the fewer the digits in your salary, the further out into the “sticks” you go hunting for whatever you can get. So, what is happening here… people are being categorised by where they live and what their house looks like, what car or cars are parked in the garages or how immaculate the landscaping is. This suburban mentality actually creates a culture and a set of norms that excludes and looks down on those who are shoved out to low income ghettos; sometimes stereotyped with derogatory names and attitudes. You could almost say it is a form of class segregation. “Higher-income places are also likely to display overlapping dimensions since affluent households are particularly likely to fuel development away from the poor” (Dwyer 2007). In essence the divide between the upper class, the middle class and the lower class are determined and emphasised through the zoning of our suburbs.
But it’s not all so bad for the middle and lower class. Yes, this level of zoning provides opportunities for the wealthy to “lash out” on individualised custom-made homes, but it also provides the opportunity for the middle and lower class to own and build their own home. Yes, they offer a limited and restricted choice of… everything and are built with minimal and superficial consideration for materiality, light, space and airflow. But in this laid-back culture does anybody really care? Second-rate standards are supposedly good enough, seeing everything is standardised with little choice left to be made by both architects and clients. In any case it still provides a comfortable, airconditioned set of ‘four walls’ and a roof to call home.
So my next question arises.
Is anyone in this laid-back culture talking about environmental sustainability or smart growth in any of these zones or suburbs?
- Boyd, Robin. n.d. The Australian Ugliness. Melbourne: Cheshire, l.
- Dwyer, Rachel E. 2010. “Poverty, Prosperity, And Place: The Shape Of Class Segregation In The Age Of Extremes”. Social Problems57 (1): 114-137. doi:10.1525/sp.2010.57.1.114.
- “Insight: Wealth In Suburbia – Is Uniformity A Bad Thing? | Martin Prosperity Institute”. 2019. Org. http://martinprosperity.org/insight-wealth-in-suburbia/.
- Wong, Duc, and Duc Wong. 2019. “Remember The Suburbs: Why Suburbs Matter And Need Good Planning Just As Much As Cities Do”. Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative At Stanford. http://sus.stanford.edu/blog/2016/12/21/remember-the-suburbs-why-suburbs-matter-and-need-good-planning-just-as-much-as-cities-do.