Tuesday, April 27, 2010

flat site...

Our block has been levelled and cleaned! It is now level and clean! It is like an enormous, sandy, blank piece of paper. Let's build a house, shall we?

Monday, April 26, 2010

extra/ordinary architecture conference 2010 - on the subject of project housing

This post is a digression from the normal documentation of the apartment house process, but i thought it pertinent to the very nature of the design and planning of the apartment house to comment on such things.

At the national architecture conference just finished this past weekend, West Australian based landscape architect Richard Weller presented on a topic close to the 'apartment house' project's heart: the suburbanisation of Perth, Western Australia and the country as a whole. He has recently published an enormous tome entitled Boom Town 2050 - Scenarios for a Rapidly Growing City. It is a brilliant and important piece of work and one that I encourage you to seek out and read, or browse, or simply marvel at.

It is a work based on significant and deep research into the goings on and statistics of how we live in this city, and the hypothetical futures that we must consider in order to avoid the unsustainable and destructive future that will certainly arrive if we do not.

Among the discussions on planning policies, ecological scenarios, energy, transportation and population, there is a chapter dedicated to the effects of 'project housing' on our city. In his conference presentation Richard Weller scarily referred to one man as Perth's most important architect; this man is Dale Alcock, project home magnate. Now there's a scary notion.

There is a school of thought that says architecture and planning, the making of homes and towns and cities, the passive or active creation of cultures that spawn from these homes and town and cities, and the welfare of the people who inhabit them and the habitats in which they exist, are important tasks to be undertaken with a great deal of care, consideration, altruism, strong will and moral fortitude. There is another school of thought that says this is primarily a retail industry.

In a direct quote by Dale Alcock in Boom Town he states the following:

"Home builders cop a lot of flak and are accused of producing housing that is unimaginative, lacks innovation and is of poor design. The reality is that home builders are retailers and provide an affordable product to a consumer. The biggest challenge is to get consumers to be more daring and challenge the status quo. Consumers, who demand a well designed, adequate, energy efficient and responsive home will ultimately be served this. Our livelihood depends on meeting our clients' demand."

Dale's quote suggests that the public is asking him for housing that is unimaginative, lacks innovation and is of poor design, and affordable. That's what he provides (or at least he does not present any rebuttal of this claim) and it so follows that this is what his consumers are demanding. This is what happens when a base necessity of life and the higher aspirations of a society are viewed as a retail undertaking. Retail suggests profit and Dale's quote suggests that he will happily make his profit from poor product if that is the market that is presented to him. In this brief quote, and in the volumes of tract housing he produces, he does not suggest that he will push the boundaries and show the world that there are better options; he does not suggest that we can live in a house that does not only tick enough boxes to allow it to be built; he does not suggest that he will strive for something more. He suggests that if no one asks for better and if he doesn't offer it, then he can go on making a 'livelihood' without putting in any more effort than is required. I would be interested to see if Dale has ever put his profits on the line to attempt to create something of importance and innovation in the state that has given him such a fantastic livelihood...and charity homes of the same dubious architectural quality as every other home he produces do not count.

It is a sad situation if this man is 'the most important architect in Perth'. It is a scary situation that no one is taking a massive and loud stand against this. It is no small inspiration for the apartment house that it is an opportunity to present an alternative way of living in this city.
The apartment house is in-fill development and respects its site and its neighbours; it pushes the limits of the planning codes and it has managed to eke out a couple of bonuses by thinking hard and knowing that the project can be approached in a manner outside the status quo. If there was a tree on the block we would've kept it.

I find it immensely worrying that such business people as Dale can view their undertakings only through a lens of profits and 'his livelihood'. In one fell swoop such actions are capable of undermining the future of a society.

building licences and site works

just got back into perth after a week in sydney attending the national architecture conference and have found on my desk a shiny new building licence. these are happy days indeed! i also dropped in to the site this morning to find site works underway - for me this is the sign that real construction has begun.

bobcat, big truck and a porta-loo. this house is getting built! to top it all off, the builder has pre-ordered our steel structure. i am very excited indeed.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

trench work completed

the builder told me today that all work in our trench has been completed. this now means, whatever happens next, at the very least we can pitch a tent on the block and have ablutions, a cup of tea and watch cable! which is much more usable than some dumb old block of sand.

but no more work can be undertaken until we have a building licence. which hopefully happens tomorrow or monday. so please everyone cross fingers.

flying out to sydney for a family wedding and a couple of conferences tomorrow also - the national architecture conference and designex. should be good, educational fun - the best kind! hopefully i won't find anything for us to add to the house...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

services are in, building licence is out!

well, it looks like things are underway. the plumber AND the electrician have been on site over the last 2 days, and have laid down the sewerage plumbing and the electrical/comms wiring in our trench. we even have a meter box!!

the bad news is that after being advised 3 weeks ago that our building licence was squared away and ready to pick up, yesterday the builder was refused the licence with no explanation. on further investigation it seems that yet another civil servant had become involved, and he has asked for a whole bunch of new information to be provided before he will sign off on the licence. no problems providing the info, just wish it had been requested weeks/months before, or that we had not been told the process was complete. anyway, most of it has been provided bar a soil test, which i am following up as i type. so maybe site-works will start next week...?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

trench weekend

zac and i decided to take on the job of digging the services trench (sewer, water, electricity and comms) to save ourselves a little bit of money and to be a bit more involved in the actual construction of the house. a small walkway leads from the bulk of the block to our primary road, where all our service connections are located.

so this weekend, with siteworks pending, zac and i, my folks and a few friends (jeromy, davey and scott with the refreshments) got on our tiniest shorts and our work boots and dug out 8.4 cubic metres of soil to make way for our services.

the work turned out to be slightly tricky, with 2 sections of steps and 1 concrete ramp to maneuver under. we managed to get under 1 lot of steps and the ramp, but the monolithic concrete steps at the front of the property proved to be too big a job for anyone without a concrete saw. so we are going to pass the last task over to our builder to complete.

all in all, however, it was a good start to the construction of the house, and i think we are all very relieved that things are now underway! site works next week.