The pandemic roll-out of suburbia over the last 75 years has largely been driven by a combination of cheap land, abundant fossil fuel and an opportunistic housing industry who structure their “product” around high-volume, lower-quality “house and land” packages. Australia’s ongoing love affair with suburbia has been extended by artificially low fuel prices and the continued release of rural land for new subdivisions on the city fringes.

The free-standing suburban home model has failed to adapt to changing demographics, diversified cultures, shrinking household sizes and varied lifestyles. Architects involvement in the suburbs– if at all – is usually restricted to the finessing of elevations or the specification of finishes within a pre-determined plan type, carefully configured to minimise cost per sqm and thus maximise floor area for any given budget.

As humanity enters the “Third Transition”[1], a period dominated by the depletion of cheap fossil fuel and growing scarcity of food and water, our already marginalized suburbs are threatened with catastrophic collapse in their current form. In the face of these emerging crises it is becoming apparent that without a radical overhaul the current suburban schema, whose infrastructure our nation has invested in so deeply, could quickly become obsolete.

[1] Taken together, the decline and eventual near cessation of fossil fuel production … disruption in global weather patterns, and the growing food and water scarcity will constitute the third great transition.  (Tom Whipple – http://www.fcnp.com/commentary/national/8548-the-peak-oil-crisis-the-3rd-transition.html)


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