The ‘great Australian dream’ of owning your own home on a quarter-acre block is synonymous with success in Australia. And not surprisingly, 75% of us think it represents an important part of the ‘the Australian way of life’.
“Give me a home among the gum trees, with lots of plum trees, a sheep or two, a kangaroo. A clothesline out the back, veranda out the front and an old rocking chair.”
This idea of home ownership began in the early 1950s when a post-war Australia experienced a baby boom. Subsequently, the increase in population and rise in construction during this time saw home ownership rates rise from 40% in 1947 to 70% in 1960.
Over the next 50 years, Australian homes became on average the largest in the world and the ‘great Australian dream’ became embedded in our culture.
Today, with the Australian population growing faster than predicted, and both housing affordability and residential construction on the decline, the ‘great Australian dream’ is becoming more and more unrealistic.
As a result, redesigning the traditional notions of home ownership to be more sustainable and attainable is now more important than ever before.
Despite the known benefits of smaller homes, such as improving urban density, lowering living costs, and being an environmentally sustainable option, many Australians today don’t want to compromise on obtaining the ‘great Australian dream’ and the social meanings and values that it carries.
You just need to look at the oversupply of apartments in major Australian cities to recognise that Australians want more than a functional building to live in, they want their home to reflect the social and cultural values they’ve grown up with.
And it’s understandable why Australians don’t want to settle for a poorly designed apartment, when they could have a spacious home on a quarter-acre block, with a yard big enough for a pool, Hills Hoist (….goon of fortune, anyone?) and an odd match of backyard cricket.
Despite the doom and gloom, a handful of Australian architects are currently designing homes that foster the values of the ‘great Australian dream’ in a way that is sustainable, affordable and attainable.
The Commons apartment building in Melbourne is an example of how this kind of design is transforming modern Australian homes. The apartments, which feature communal spaces such as a rooftop garden with water tanks, beehives, and a vegetable garden, is an example of the way that designers are creating functional and social spaces that not only resonate with Australian audiences but are also sustainable, space efficient and reasonably affordable.
“With good design and planning, modest size homes are not compromising. In fact…well designed smaller homes are far superior to their bulky, poorly-considered neighbours.”
Internationally acclaimed Australian architect, Andrew Maynard
Although we won’t be singing “give me a home among the high-rises” anytime soon, it’s architects like Andrew Maynard and such fine examples as The Commons which are redesigning the ‘great Australian dream’ and ultimately paving the way for sustainable housing in Australia.