If home is where the heart is, this beautiful book is a home-lover’s dream destination. Subtitled Evolution of the Australian Dream, an illustrated review of housing in Australia, anyone with a love of housing, town planning, architecture or even history, will warmly appreciate its content.
Penned by Philip Cox, one of Australia’s best known architects, Philip Graus, who has been involved in housing for over 25 years, and Bob Meyer, one of Sydney’s most experienced planners, Home is a book that took me by surprised with its ability to make such a specialised topic so fascinating.
Covering such areas as the development of suburbia, the 18th to 20th Century ‘From Industrial City to Utopia’, Australian Dwelling Prototypes and Urban Models, the Compact City v the Urban Sprawl and the Future of the Australian city, this is an eye-opening peek into the history of housing as we know it.
What I like most about this book is its layperson accessibility. Opening with:
“The buzz of bees, the sweet smell of mown grass, children playing in the garden with the dog yapping at their heels – this is an image most people associate with suburbia. The house set in a garden environment… is the ideal of suburbia as represented in Australia and many other Anglocentric nations… Within these countries the vast majority of people live in such suburbs. What makes Australia so unique is the extent to which this occurs…”
Indeed, such a suburban existence is meagerly represented when it comes to examining the variety and extent of housing around the world, and as discussed in Home, the rise of suburbia is a very recent occurrence in the history of urbanisation. It is also something that was born of many more influences than the need to place roof overhead. From the tearing down of ancient city walls to advent of the steam train, which brought the country to the city, looking to the past is an enriching experience when it comes to full appreciation for the type of housing we enjoy today.
My favourite chapters in Home would have to be Australian Dwelling Prototypes, in which the authors cover urban development from the First Fleet and its replica of the vernacular architecture of Britain, including crofter’s cottages made with timber frames, mud, clay, wattle and daub, to much more modern examples. Illustrations showing the evolution of certain house types – from bungalow to mansion – is fascinating. The continued rise of terrace houses and apartments is also discussed, and a table showing major architectural influences and they Australian and worldwide architects is interesting to note.
The chapter on Australian Urban Models again reveals a highly-specialised world to the everyday reader, covering the way our cities, towns and modern ‘estates’ have grown and developed over time. Influences are also covered, as shown in Walter Burley Griffin’s work and its American influence. The difference between Australian and British New Towns is an intriguing read, as is the ‘clean slate’ approach to urban renewal.
Not just an explorative and intelligent view of the way humans have urbanised their existence, the book also features a striking line-up of images, from paintings through maps, diagrams, photographs and striking watercolour images (the cover image was created by Philip Cox), that make for a beautifully laid out and designed, visually- and mentally-pleasing tome.