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Images from the suburban fringe

G8th January 2016

C1 Comment

Tenvironment, photography

As our cities continue to expand ever outwards, farmland is eventually engulfed with McMansions and urban estates filled with absurdly named streets.

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?

Billboard on farm advertising nearby housing estate.

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”.

Billboard advertising a new housing estate beside a house under construction

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.

New intersection; poles, wires, traffic lights, signs.

An empty intersection that will soon take more traffic than it’s designed to withstand.

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.

Butumen road and footpath in a new housing estate.

Narrow streets wait for the dwellings to be constructed around them.

Bitumen road with sign pointing to two streets.

The intersection of two streets.

Billboard offering land for sale.

A lot of land for sale.

Reinforcing positioned in readiness for a new wall.

Reinforcing positioned in readiness for a new wall.

House framing erected atop a concrete slab.

House framing erected atop a concrete slab.

House frame.

A house under construction.

Steel framing showing roof trusses.

One of the newer-type steel-frame houses under construction.

House under construction.

Building “the great Australian dream”.

New house that looks like a 1960's school building.

An entirely utilitarian design, reminiscent of something else.

A house newly completed and offered for sale.

A house newly completed and offered for sale.

Sandwich boards advertising houses open for inspection.

Sandwich boards advertising houses open for inspection.

Looking through the thistles on a vacant lot to the new houses recently completed.

Looking through the thistles on a vacant lot to the new houses recently completed.

Houses with builder's banners out the front.

Flags advertise the display homes open for inspection.

Tree-lined new street in housing estate

A completed street scape: Notably, this one has been planted with trees.

A newly-completed row of houses.

A newly-completed row of houses.

   

Comments:

One response to “Images from the suburban fringe”

  • Written by Simon Yeo on 16 January 2016:

    Interesting subject!

    Sometimes these new communities can work, especially if there’s lots of public space included, but often they don’t. Tiny lots that back onto a railway or freeway make me cringe.

    Your photos are are terrific, and add perspective to the post.

    Well done!

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