Shaking the stereotype: dirty hippies and the unemployed

Collage of residential marketing from the West Australian – “value”, “home” “living” and “new” were all emphasised throughout the advertisements[1].

Communal housing has been slow to take off in Perth with only a handful of projects established in WA and with some projects, such as Harmony Park in Singleton failing to get off the ground[2]. The nuclear family: three kids and a white picket fence in your very own 3×2 are still the most valued prerogatives of a Perth market which are reflected (or derived) in the advertisements of the property section of Perth’s popular newspapers. While it would oversimplify the issue to say that successful and profitable architectural projects live and die on marketing, marketing has been an oversight in architecture across the board and it’s no different in the residential sector.

Baugrappen marketing emphases the design. [3]

Perth communal housing models often directly appropriate European development models such as Germany’s Baugrappen or Denmark’s Co-Living model. In Europe, these models derive from the vernacular of existing infrastructure and historical context but in Australia, the context is very abstract. The thoughtful design of White Gum Valley’s Baugrappen project markets the fact that the model is German rather than appealing to the local consumer[4]. The marketing emphases the design; ‘Architectural, affordable and sustainable’ however the slogan is not personalised to the context (and I never understood “architectural” as an adjective).  Other co-living projects often have a similar issue – the marketing presents the building more as an intellectual experiment than a home.

These projects can be compared to a successful recently established co-living project; “The Tide in Scarborough. The name is commercial and catchy and there isn’t a floor plan to be seen on the front page of the website[5]. The marketing draws from established Scarborough lifestyle tropes rather than European precedents. This is similar to countries where there are already precedents for widespread communal housing such as in space limited London. On first glance, the property section of the London Times doesn’t look so dissimilar to the local West Australian however advertising consists of communal or co-owned projects are right next to apartment blocks[6]. In a newspaper, marketing for The Tide blends in with its competitors even though the product is a very different model. While undoubtedly The Tide is more developer driven than other co-living models on the market, if Learning from Las Vegas[7] taught us anything, there are lessons to be learnt from the bold and the commercial. The Tide manages to rinse out the taste inherited from the early 70’s communes of Australia and remove the political from the architecture.

The Tide sells “the lifestyle”‘; a technique used by many other developer-led projects [8]

If architects want to become relevant to the masses, we need to start locally. Marketing needs to be more than an afterthought for architects. The lessons from these projects show that ideas don’t necessarily make good marketing campaigns and that the best architecture isn’t necessarily the best selling architecture. Architects need to listen to the market – there is no design without the brief.


[1] “The West Australian” The West Australian, accessed April 12, 2019,
https://enewspaper2.thewest.com.au/ /

[2] “Is this the end” Harmony Park Housing Co-operative, accessed April 12, 2019, https://harmonypark.coop/2019/01/16/is-this-the-end/

[3] “Baugrauppen at WGV” Baugrauppen WGV, accessed April 12, 2019, http://www.baugruppen.com.au/

[5] “The Tide, Scarborough Beach” The Tide, accessed April 12, 2019,
https://thetide.com.au/?gclid=CjwKCAjwy7vlBRACEiwAZvdx9oDnJDO5WHTSCaa5Z9vZIrNh7TCDcdgNxdRxJhcjayUDt8rIyBmsWhoCQQMQAvD_BwE

[6] “The Times” The Times, accessed April 12, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/

[7] Venturi, Robert., Scott Brown, Denise, and Izenour, Steven. Learning from Las Vegas  Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1972.

[8] “The Tide, Scarborough Beach” The Tide, accessed April 12, 2019,
https://thetide.com.au/?gclid=CjwKCAjwy7vlBRACEiwAZvdx9oDnJDO5WHTSCaa5Z9vZIrNh7TCDcdgNxdRxJhcjayUDt8rIyBmsWhoCQQMQAvD_BwE

Cindy Park

Cindy is a Masters of Architecture student at UWA with a background in civil engineering. She enjoys travel and overwatering house plants.