Republic of Moreland

December 26, 2006

Can’t decide which I love the best

Filed under: architecture,art,Coburg,politics,urban planning — Kath @ 10:41 am

Houses are people too, you know. I was going to write an earnest little post on neighbourhood character, which quoted from Alain de Botton’s peerless book, The Architecture of Happiness. I was going to explore my bourgeois notions of what constitutes neigbourhood character, and take you on a romp through the different styles in my area (Victorian, Edwardian, Federation, faux Georgian, Deco), and compare their virtues with these brown boxes, also in my street.

The brown boxes, many with large, north-facing windows and consequently huge airconditioners, are authentic Moreland. They are, of course, a strong part of the area’s prized heritage and culture. The folk who inhabit them are a big part of what I value about the area. As part of Moreland’s fast march toward gentrification, I feel an ambivalence towards them, though. Perhaps I don’t appreciate them because they haven’t quite reached that 40-year mark when tasteless suddenly becomes (to chattering classes at least) funky retro. (It seems to be 20 years for clothing; 40 for housing.)

With developers snapping at the heels of new (semi) Anglo inhabitants like me, the issue of neighbourhood character is sure to arise around here soon. Will I feel the need to preserve and defend the equally prevalent ‘character’ of brown boxes alongside the dinky vintage pads?

This question, for all I know, might be well-worn for undergrads in Urban Planning 101, or Architecture 101. But it’s a new question for me, prompted by urban creature’s thoughtful observations on neighbourhood character codes. He writes of a code which advocates:

the preferred neighbourhood character, rather than simply respects the existing so-called neighbourhood character of the area… Neighbourhood character is an often abused concept that tries to make conservatism look respectable.

That’s the thing, isn’t it?



  1. These brown boxes house Malakas by the ute-load.

    Comment by Bane of Malakas — December 26, 2006 @ 11:06 am | Reply

  2. At least you’re not even trying to make conservatism look respectable, Bane.

    Comment by Girl on The Avenue — December 26, 2006 @ 11:23 am | Reply

  3. Conservatism, perhaps, but not conservation. Not of these, anyway. I count the hours to their demolition — hopefully in the dead of night with artillery and helicopter support, like the Israelis do in Gaza, or something.

    Comment by Bane of Malakas — December 26, 2006 @ 12:59 pm | Reply

  4. The one on the far right is very similar to one I grew up in and it looked like everyone else’s house. We moved there when I was 13 from a large rambling, high ceiling house with stunning lead lights and ornate light fixtures on a 1/2 acre block with Jacaranda trees and lady-finger grape vines. My seven siblings had all moved out of home and my folks got the design for the new house from a display home ‘village’. We moved to a tiny corner block on a main road, across from the rail-way line boom gates. We lived so close to the airport that the planes cast shadows over our back yard. My father cut the brilliantly coloured and fully grown poinseitta tree down and erected the treated pine log fence.
    But I loved the neighbourhood. All my school buddies lived there and we all walked to school (and to church). The houses may have all looked the same but the people were wildly diverse.
    Twenty-seven years later the un-appealing neighbourhood I grew up in is…well, still un-appealing actually. In fact it’s gotten worse especially since they built the smelter. And the crime hasn’t gotten any better and the only place to buy food is the local Woolworths. Okay, it’s no Moreland! But I know one day my old neighbourhood and the house I grew up in, time will come!

    Comment by Stella Glorie — December 29, 2006 @ 1:14 am | Reply

  5. Hey, I thought I was the one on the far right.

    And, amusing as this was, is it worth repeating four times? (Or should that be “frice”?)

    Comment by Bane of Malakas — December 29, 2006 @ 10:11 am | Reply

  6. Bane, I think a technical glitch got Stella’s comment repeated, so I’ve deleted the first three. Stoushing is encouraged, but snarkiness isn’t :-p

    Stella, I can’t imagine these being off display home plans, let alone ‘designed’. I always imagined they were built ad hoc by the residents. Perhaps not the end ones, but certainly the centre one…

    Comment by Girl on The Avenue — December 29, 2006 @ 3:11 pm | Reply

  7. Girl: you been out to Craigeburn recently? Hillocks covered in “designed” homes all uniquely exactly the same; lotsa squareness, little or no eaves like your brown brick of yesteryear which cannot protect us from the sun, hence the need for huge aircons.
    As to “neighbourhood character”, surely it grows incrementally, just as our gardens and planned shrubbery matures with time. And as Urban Creature suggests, perhaps neighbourhood character is like human personality; sometimes it’s interesting and sometimes it’s very dull, the latter of course commensurate with no dress sense at all.

    Comment by Leonardo — December 30, 2006 @ 1:01 pm | Reply

  8. Can’t say I’ve been to Craigeburn… ever, come to think of it. I don’t think character “grows incrementally”, though. Think of Fed Square. Ghastly as it is: loads of character.

    Comment by Girl on The Avenue — December 31, 2006 @ 10:26 am | Reply

  9. When Fed Square was first built I think it had characteristics but not character. I feel character only began to develop there when the people moved in – the shops, ornamentation, colour, sound and movement. Of course there’ll be no plant growth there to improve the character (unless something accidentally self-germinates in a crack)but fifty years of street grime, graffiti and pigeon shit might start to make those shards of prefab and glass look kind of… well “interesting” is too strong a word…

    Comment by Leonardo — January 1, 2007 @ 1:26 pm | Reply

  10. There’s another really interesting discussion of this happening over at Civil Pendemonium

    Comment by Chloe — January 9, 2007 @ 10:11 pm | Reply

  11. “Civil Pendemonium”

    Now it’s you who’s speaking Kiwi.

    Comment by Bane of Malakas — January 11, 2007 @ 1:23 am | Reply

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