City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Towards a blueprint for the suburbs, and the centres

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A radio interview on the Australian city, suburbs and centres—as seen in 1970, 2007, and 2021

A quick note to point to a radio discussion with me and Jonathan Green of ABC Radio National’s Blueprint for Living, which was just broadcast this weekend in Australia. We discuss the possibility of the suburbs and centres within Australian cities, and beyond. We reflect on the relatively few moments that the question of Australian city emerged critically and constructively during the 20th century—instead of ‘just happening’, in this most urbanised of countries—and suggest that the present moment would be a good time to frame new questions, living amidst a pandemic that has thrown all manner of social and spatial questions onto the table.

We actually recorded the interview back in August 2021, but it pivots from this old piece I wrote in 2007, about Australian architecture and urbanism as framed in two magazines: 2007’s A+U (with contributions from the great Philip Goad) and 1970’s Architectural Review, edited by JM Richards.

But our discussion also dwells a little on the entangled threads of the present moment. Jonathan and I pick through those threads a little, looking at or hinting at the new possibilities of suburbs and centres, not only in Australia, but elsewhere too (given that the suburb is perhaps the most prevalent of urban conditions, making a meaningful difference here could be Australia’s signature contribution to urbanism). Those ‘threads’ are woven together in this 2020 piece I wrote for Rory Hyde’s edition of Architecture Australia on the suburbs.

The hints there are no more than the suggestion of a blueprint, rather than any confidently-drawn lines, but this are something we aim to develop.

Ed. Given current events at the present moment, I wince a little at hearing the way I phrased my recollection of Bruce Chatwin’s notion that Russian settlers might have "occupied territories" if they had invaded Australia, as opposed to how the coastline-hugging British invaders did. It did not seem so problematic back in August 2021. The idea, which I've always been drawn to, is from my hazy memory of Chatwin’s Songlines, which I should now re-read.


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