A ban on dark roofs? It’s a furphy, minister, but here’s what really makes me hit the roof

To be delightful, suburbia needs so many roads, generates so much carbon, devours so much land, destroys so much biodiversity, foregoes so much beauty and produces so much social isolation, depression and obesity that the city you produce is sensory deprivation. is in built form. You end up with two soulless extremes, a puddle of sprawl surrounding clusters of towers that are a form of vertical sprawl. Stokes’ Sydney.

Housing patterns that offer survival, equality and pleasure lie between the two extremes. (By equality, I don’t mean equality, of course. It’s towers and burbs that produce boring uniformity. I mean the critical role housing plays in both equality of opportunity and generational justice. We need homes that allow for the proliferation of talent without destroy climate.)

Peter Barber architect, Ordnance Road social housing, Enfield, London

Peter Barber architect, Ordnance Road social housing, Enfield, London

There are many traditional examples, from the glorious 18th-century courtyards of Vienna and the 1920s version of Barcelona, ​​to the six-storey garden squares of London, the three-storey villas of San Francisco and the terraces of inner-city Sydney. All combine the community, health and ecology benefits of urban living with the delights of the suburban garden.

There are also more recent reinventions of this type, mostly from the 60s and 70s, when the ideal of high-density low-rise buildings became a grail, attracting some of the best – and highest – minds in the industry.

The beautiful, green-draped, three-storey concrete of Atelier Five estate Halen near Bern (1961) was an early and brilliant example. Another that rightly gained cult status was the Alexandra Road estate in the London Borough of Camden (1968) by Neave Brown, who wisely argued that tower living should be reserved only for the wealthy. So did the 70s Philadelphia Housing by the American architect and theorist Louis Sauer (who now, at age 93, lives in Launceston) was very beautiful, dignified work.

Peter Barber, Donnybrook Gardens, Tower Hamlets, London

Peter Barber, Donnybrook Gardens, Tower Hamlets, London

Recent versions are fewer, especially in Sydney. There are Moore Park Gardens, Redfern, designed by Peter Stronach in the 1980s. With its intricate side roads, varied shape and lush planting, this is still one of the best. And there’s Hassell’s lovely Flour Mills development for EG in Summerhill. Like Moore Park Gardens, this adaptive reuse of old fabric involves enriching the feel. But it’s also a fine example of design and community building, with beautiful architecture, beloved public spaces and a park that is used day and night.

A rare gem: the flour mill on Summer Hill.

A rare gem: the flour mill on Summer Hill.

These are developments that you can look at and think, yes, that can be at home. Why so few? Not because they are by definition not viable. The brilliant Peter Barber does similar and better things in uber-expensive London, such as the lovely Moroccan-inspired Donnybrook Gardens in Tower Hamlets. Some, like his home on Ordnance Road, Enfield, are social housing, but still beautiful.

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Low-rise, high-density homes are rare because we’ve swallowed the furphy uttered by my anonymous heckler: that it’s somehow unviable. wrong. Viability is an artifact, a made thing, a product of government policy. If you just land for 30 floors, land value rockets, so low-rise buildings won’t be viable of course. Likewise, if you wring your hand in favor of medium density, but shift the responsibility onto the councils, for whom it is a political nightmare, it will not happen. But all this is completely in the hands of the government.

Thanks for your pale roof, Mr Stokes, but forcing Sydney to choose between tiny apartments and godforsaken suburbs betrays our humanity, our city and our future.

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