American cities have inspired critical analysis ranging from Jane Jacobs ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ to Kunstler’s ‘Home From Nowhere’, but what debates, ideas and critiques has the Australian urban landscape generated?
Here are five top contenders for classic Australian town planning texts, what else would you add?
1. The Australian Ugliness by Robin Boyd (1960)
Australian architect Robin Boyd’s 1960 book, ‘The Australian Ugliness’ investigates the Australian architectural and suburban aesthetic and coins the term “featurism” to describe it. Boyd proposes that education in design can be a means to resolve the ugliness he observes. After the first publication of this book, Boyd was criticised for being unpatriotic. However the book became an influential best seller and opened up debate in Australia about design, architecture and urban planning.
2. Ideas for Australian Cities by Hugh Stretton (1970)
Historian, Hugh Stretton argues for a revival of the old Australian capacity for inventive political action. He explores two unique planning experiments in Australia, the cities of Adelaide and Canberra and argues that civilised cities can be built if people want them, by methods already tried and proven in these two cities. ‘Ideas for Australian Cities’ describes itself as “a book about Australians, their values and equalities, and what they can do to keep their cities human.”
3. Cities for Sale by Leonie Sandercock (1975)
Sandercock looks at Australia’s unique planning problems, as well as issues of international significance including the struggle for conservation and the choice between immediate popular solutions to planning problems and long-term ‘expert’ ones.
‘Cities for Sale’ considers the failure of town planning in Australia and looks at three leading cities, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and their aimless sprawl during the twentieth century. Sandercock describes old property owners and modern ‘technocrats’ as frustrating efforts to improve the physical environment, and the impact that deifying economic growth has had on attempts to remedy social ills.
4. The Perils of Urban Consolidation by Patrick Troy (1996)
In the 1990s Australian urban planners became increasingly excited about the benefits of urban consolidation for sprawling Australian cities. Troy released his controversial and much discussed book in 1996, considering the benefits of suburban development and the downsides of urban consolidation. Significant for its timeliness in the discussion about the pros and cons of increasing the density of our cities, Troy’s book ‘The Perils of Urban Consolidation’ continues to provide a catalyst for this ongoing debate.
5. Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence by Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy (1999)
Sustainability and Cities is one of many publications by Newman and Kenworthy that is regularly referenced in planning policy. It makes the case that the essential character of a city’s land use results from how it manages its transportation, and that only by reducing automobile dependence can we be successfully accommodate all elements of the sustainability agenda. This has since formed an integral part of many planning arguments on why urban consolidation and more compact cities are needed.