The Compact City: A Sustainable Urban Form?

By Mike Jenks; Elizabeth Burton et al. | Go to book overview

Patrick N. Troy


Urban Consolidation and the Family

The Australian Government has recently adopted a policy of urban consolidation in an attempt to curb environmental stress in cities. The policy has been justified on social grounds, and it is claimed that a more compact city would result in social as well as environmental benefits. This chapter critically assesses the turn-around in Australian urban policy and its implications for the family and community: it discusses the advantages, in social terms, of the traditional Australian city; the reasons and justifications for a shift in policy: and the likely effect on urban social issues as such a policy is pursued.


Traditional Australian housing

One of the central features of the history of economic growth in the developed world is that as living standards have risen households have wanted more space-private as well as public-in which they can pursue an increasingly rich variety of activities. The history of the dwellings we occupy reveals an evolution from simple shelters, to houses in which sleeping rooms were separated from cooking and eating, to those in which parents had bedrooms separate from children and where there was space for recreation other than in the kitchen or bedroom. In modern times the demand for specialised space within the home and recognition of the need for privacy have also fuelled the demand for increased enclosed space.

Simultaneously, we have seen households demand external space in the form of gardens, and part of the attraction of the suburb was that it offered houses in gardens. The garden space allowed households the freedom to extend their houses when they could afford to, and to improve their standard of living by their own domestic production. It gave them safe spaces in which their children could grow up and a private setting for many family activities. In short, the gardens gave them a degree of independence and freedom of expression no other form of housing could offer. It gave them a form of housing which met most of their needs for the greater period of their lives.

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