Images from the suburban fringe
On the fringes of Melbourne, the suburbs continue to expand as they have done for more than 60 years. Piece by piece, farm allotments are subsumed into housing estates filled with peculiarly-named and dangerously narrow streets, ornate lamp posts and dwellings crowded too close to each other. Communal parks substitute for gardens these days in a move that could render The Australian Home Beautiful obsolete. Could these places become the latest incarnation of the Australian ‘ugliness’ that Robyn Boyd wrote about in 1960?
Windswept and dry, the new suburbs have only vacant allotments with promise-filled billboards for state schools. Narrow tracts of grassy land hint at future railway lines that will never be built. Shops are kilometres away; workplaces even further. Building is swift and craftsmanship rare. Trees cannot possibly thrive in the narrow chasms referred-to as “backyards”.
The environment of a new housing estate can seem glum and depressing when compared to the ideals of the garden city movement. Once upon a time, nature was allowed to thrive between the dwellings to produce an amenity that people valued. Now developers enthusiastically cram as many dwellings into a street as possible with the greedy complicity of municipalities. The future is tomorrow’s concern.
I have sought to capture some of the atmosphere of the contemporary housing estate, by photographing the landscapes, constructions and streets. These images come from a random selection of estates in Melbourne’s north and are not intended as a criticism of any developer, development or suburb.
My intention is twofold; to document the contemporary housing estate and to prompt thinking about the types of neighbourhoods that we’re creating.