Professor Peter Spearritt reviews Designer Suburbs: Architects and Affordable Homes in Australia, by Judith O’Callaghan and Charles Pickett (NewSouth in association with the Faculty of the Built Environment, UNSW & Powerhouse Museum, 2012).
Why can’t we design better suburbs? There are five main reasons. Prospective homeowners give more thought to choosing a home and a locality than they do to how the suburb functions in a day-to-day sense. Architects, even when they do pay attention to the client, focus on external appearance, site location and internal layout. Investors focus on likely rents, rates of return and hoped-for capital gains. Developers have no interest in the environment beyond their cul de sac or model estate, other than for marketing purposes. And local council planners have such modest powers that they have to sweet talk developers and transport planners into trying to create a pleasant street environment where people can safely walk to shop, school or public transport.