Afternoon walk, Stockholm 18 June 2020

24. Slowdown landscapes: The care and repair of our suburbs

Retrofit over new build; greening the grey, greying the green; urbanising the suburban, and suburbanising the urban; making the suburbs work, by enhancing diversity


Between the peri-urban surrounds and the central business district (CBD), we might find the diversified suburban neighbourhood — diversified in terms of activity, biodiversity, culture, space, amenity, environment.

Rory Hyde’s work has often touched on how the typical Melbourne suburbs — examples of the quintessential Australian urban form— might be retrofitted via simple interventions and repurposing. For Architect Victoria, he wrote:

“The suburbs we have are here to stay, so instead of decrying them as the places which will drag us all under, shouldn’t we develop new ways to retrofit them to be socially, environmentally and economically sustainable places in their own right?”—Rory Hyde

Rather than simply wringing hands over this lack of care, Hyde suggests an inventive resuscitation of Robin Boyd’s Small Homes Service, subtly shifted in focus to become a ‘Small Homes Adaptability Service’, with an emphasis on improving the already-there. He describes how such a service would be “directed to retrofitting the existing housing stock to suit the needs of today, transforming the suburbs to become socially, environmentally, and economically supportive places.”

For Architecture Australia, Hyde describes the idea in a bit more detail

“A new Small Homes Service would not be designing new homes to address this challenge. It would be geared toward adapting the existing housing stock to suit the needs of today and creating new opportunities to share space and resources — a Small Homes Adaptability Service. The suburbs are ripe for this kind of transformation. They are composed of many freehold titles, enabling owners to proceed independently rather than waiting for any top-down coordination. They have plenty of underused space: front yards, backyards, broad streets, verges, crossovers, garages and spare rooms. And perhaps most importantly, they have always been about freedom to experiment, to be transformed from the bottom up in…



Dan Hill
Slowdown Papers

Designer, urbanist, etc. Director of Melbourne School of Design. Previously, Swedish gov, Arup, UCL IIPP, Fabrica, Helsinki Design Lab, BBC etc