Where Have All the Gardens Gone?
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The disadvantages of the low-density car-based suburbs that surround Australian and American cities are well known and widely debated. These include facilities located to the disadvantage of non-car users, wasteful use of land, cost of infrastructure, time and energy expended on driving, low incidence of social contact and lack of exercise. Nevertheless, the older Australian suburb also has compensating advantages for both the residents and the wider community. One is a generally high degree of bio-diversity. The presence of trees also provides shade, modifying the microclimate and giving aesthetic pleasure. The planted areas around the dwelling also aid the process of storm drainage by retaining water and reducing run-off. The private amenity space around the dwelling can accommodate not just a garden for the pleasure of the occupants but also barbeque facilities and an in-ground swimming pool. These not only benefit the residents directly but also facilitate social interaction with friends and neighbours. In many parts of Australia, notably Queensland, use is made of verandas to provide outdoor living sheltered from the sun. Although the roofs may be very large, a significant part of the space under them is open to the air and surroundings. The more recent suburbs, however, display a disturbing trend. The dwelling now extends near to the boundary of the plot and, in consequence, near to adjoining dwellings. There is very little private amenity space to the rear of the dwelling, in extreme cases none at all. There is little in the way of balconies and verandas. Windows are often small and tinted. The design is square or deep-plan and incorporates an integral double garage further reducing the scope for natural lighting and ventilation. Usually, only one room provides an outlook to the front and surveillance of the street. While the disadvantages of suburban living still apply, the advantages referred to above have disappeared.
© 2008 Planning Institute of Australia. This is the author-manuscript version of the article published in Australian Planner [Volume 45, Issue 1, Pages 30-37]. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.Please refer to the journal link for access to the definitive, published version.