Ocean Reef Suburban Development, Perth Australia
Perth is one of the most suburbanised cities on the planet. Far from being independent competing forces, sprawl and infill are components of the same phenomenon. As cities expand, more affordable housing is displaced to the periphery, which in turn leaves inner city areas ripe for gentrification. As inner city areas are redeveloped several processes unfold. Firstly, undesirable or extensive land uses such as light industry are forced to relocate out of inner urban areas. Secondly, the gentrifying classes typically occupy more residential floor space per person, so even with additional inner city accommodation, actual population often decreases. Finally, displaced non-residential land uses and lower socio-economic classes find refuge in the periphery. Simultaneously infilling and sprawling, the city turns itself inside out.
But this process is based upon a number of premises; firstly, that there is an infinite amount of land for release, which there is not, for as we will see in studio, Perth is more highly constrained than it appears. The second premise is that this land is inert and ‘undeveloped’ which it is not, since it is often endemic coastal heath land with great ecological value. Thirdly, the culture of suburban expansion fails to account for the social ramifications of a mega suburbanised, undifferentiated city. Understanding these processes with a critical, but not judgmental eye is an important component in the education of a landscape architect.