Character Suburbs - Death by 1000 Cuts

We live in a Brisbane City Council so-called "Demolition Control Precinct" (DCP) which aims to:

"... maintain the character of traditional pre-war streetscapes by controlling demolition, relocation and removal of buildings that contribute character. "
"... retain the traditional building character of Brisbane by ensuring new buildings are compatible in appearance with existing character buildings, and allowing renovations and extensions that have no impact on the traditional character streetscape."

I have no doubt that this DCP measure has protected what's left of our character housing and suburbs to some extent but in my opinion there are too many loopholes that are all too often taken advantage of by greedy developers. Over time, unsympathetic development (both residential and commercial) has gradually eroded the wonderful character of our historic suburbs - a "death by 1000 cuts".

In our DCP protected street alone there have been at least three instances where pre-WWII character housing has been either partially or completely demolished to make way for modern, higher density residential housing. This is happening in every street to a greater or lesser extent. Developers can often get away with this if they promise to clad their modern, high-density monoliths in more traditional "timber and tin" materials, like this is going to fool anyone! For some reason, council believe that cladding modern architecture in weatherboards and corrugated iron helps it to blend in with the existing streetscape.

In today's inflated property market I can see that there's a strong financial incentive to maximise the return on every inch of inner city land, and if that means destoying a Queenslander, dividing the block and building two small-lot homes within spitting distance of each other, there are plenty of people out there who would do it. Not me. I want to live here rather than double my money quickly and run off to the next conquest. I don't see the point in eroding the very character that has made our "timber and tin" suburbs so sought after and such nice places to live.

To add insult to injury, with all our knowledge and vast experience we are often replacing these old homes with less efficient and less sustainable housing. When I see large new homes crammed onto small lots with poor solar orientation, blocking the solar access of neighbours, without eaves or verandahs, with little cross-ventilation, dark tile roofs and massive air conditioning units to make them bearable in our Queensland summers, I lament the loss of the trusty "Queenslander" which, when allowed to breath (verandahs opened up, ventilation under), are wonderful examples of simple design, well suited to our climate. With a few cheap, low-tech retrofits many old Queenslanders can be just as comfortable and efficient as the vast majority of so-called modern "eco" homes.

I am not anti-development or against modern architecture by any means, but I do think we need to cherish, preserve and respect the unique character of our older suburbs more than we currently do today. I don't want to live in a world of creeping normalcy resulting in malls, fast food franchises, roads and black tile roofs covering monotonous, boxy, inefficient project homes as far as the eye can see.

Comments

Project Homes

I'm so with you on that one!!! Ugly, ugly, ugly! Good value for money ... Sterile city !