Sunday, 8 June 2014

Happyvale Springs

Today, after visiting the Monash Gallery of Art with the illuminating Chris Zissiadis of Urbanlight and Lea Williams of instant fame, I took the long way home. Owing to the fact I was in a borrowed car sans electronic toll tag, I wended my way down Stud Rd for the first time since the Eastlink toll road had opened. Seeing the changes along that former main north-south thoroughfare was quite striking.

Places that used to be mental distance markers for me as a child passenger on a family trip were gone. Where the Austral Bricks quarry used to mark "almost home", now sits an ill-suited mess of mud and homogenous concrete dwellings. "HARCREST" by Metricon was spelled out in large letters; stage 2 now selling. Yet another cookie-cutter development for outer-suburban Melbourne.

I quickly pulled into the estate, hoping there were some photographs to be had in the afternoon sun (results now pending processing of film). Admist the half-completed homes sat homes ringed by mud, occupied by new tenants. Even late on a Sunday afternoon, the sales office was still buzzing, couples and families walking from the main entrance clutching reams of glossy brochures and plans. Design. Inspire. Create. said the signage for the online interior design tool.

I parked the car and wandered around. All the hallmarks of a new development were present and accounted for:
  • Geographically incongruous estate development name suffixed by geographical feature
    • (Harcrest. See also Sumerfield, Casiana Grove at Cranbourne(!), Highlands or Mayfield)
  • Generic house designs with personalised "packages" (get your choice of chrome door knobs or granite bench tops!)
  • Main drive with grandiose stone gateway and tacked-on supermarket and cafĂ©(s)
  • Mud
  • Man Made Lake(s)
  • More Mud
  • Playground and park (with mud) 
  • Streets that are:
    • stupidly narrow,
    • go nowhere; and
    • bare nauseating names (The Boulevard, Bloom Ave, Verdant St, Grove Way, Appledale Way, Honey Ave)
How will the passage of time treat these overly designed and homogeneously engineered spaces? Will they develop their own personalities and be truly "homely"? Or will they end up markers of a generation of urban planning failures - mass produced suburbs jutted one up against another, lacking the necessary infrastructure and services for the development of a real community?

Here, let me save the time of developers by drawing a housing estate design that is free to use and can be adapted to almost any size parcel of land:

Richard McKenzie's Grand Adventures in Outer Suburbia (formerly "the country")
It's probably a mark of how rare it is for a piece of land this size to become available for housing in a relatively developed area that Metricon categorise this estate as "inner urban", even though it is some 25km from the CBD.

More news as it develops.

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