Australia, we need to talk about the suburbs.
Robin Boyd went so far as to call them ugly, but where Boyd took issue with featurism (which Michael Smith of The Red and Black Architect elegantly describes as "treating architecture like cake decoration"), a bigger problem is how we cut ourselves off from the natural landscape and ignore our unique climate and location.
From Melbourne's variable temperate climate to Brisbane's sub-tropics, modern Australian suburbs look remarkably, perturbingly, similar.
How can this be?
We tend to build hermetically sealed bubbles, great for air-conditioning effectively, but also a good excuse to ignore the climate and seasonal rhythms. There's a wealth of evidence to demonstrate the health benefits of nature and yet as the scale of our houses increases, the average block size plummets and the backyard is squeezed, we are growing further and further detached from it. With the exception of the odd alfresco dining area, there's not much incentive to spend time outdoors.
One option is to build smaller houses, leaving more space for outdoor areas and create great indoor-outdoor connections. Another option is to think differently about how we build in the suburbs. The projects we featured this week have one thing in common - they stand out in their suburban setting. And in this case, standing out is a good thing, because they question the status quo and attempt to solve some of the problems with the suburbs.
Whether you're designing an addition which embraces a sub-tropical climate or corrects some of the mistakes of the past by prioritising light and a connection to the garden. If you're building a new home, take it as an opportunity to reflect the unique qualities of the place you're building or find a way to make your home feel more like rooms in the landscape, rather than making the landscape secondary.
If we have the courage to build like this, our suburbs will be healthier and happier places to live and the greater environment will benefit as well.