Quality Space or A Purple Shagpile?
Do you remember your first bedroom? I was lucky enough to have one to myself and I remember the sanctuary that space provided from the outside world that I was only starting to comprehend. The extent of that world wasn’t known to me back then, but I was intimately familiar with my bedroom space.
Outside that imaginary drawbridge of the bedroom, my senses needed to be on full alert as I navigated and stumbled my way through boring and torturous social norms just to have more fun. Often, my idea of fun was rarely shared by my parents and I have no doubt that I pushed as many of their buttons as Donald Trump does with the Democrats. In any case, whether exhausted, frustrated or battered and bruised, I had the luxury of being able to return to my sanctuary believing for even just a little while that when that drawbridge was up, I was truly the master of my own world.
As the years passed, I learnt the more I pushed the boundaries, the more I would hear those favourite parenting words, "my roof, my rules"! So, the answer to that was simple - find a different roof. Thus, began my life as a roofer…no, not really but just imagine if I did…what a story?! I did leave the house soon after my 20th year and reacquainted myself with my earlier theory of the meaning of life: "to have fun"! During those early years I took the guise of a scientist, endlessly experimenting in my exploration of different neighbourhoods. Here started a journey that would eventually lead me to living within 14 different suburbs of Melbourne. Each one with a unique drawbridge and sanctuary of its own.
At first it wasn’t so evident but when you consistently change something for long enough, you start to see patterns in how different places and spaces impact your psyche. There are places I could not wait to get back to and others that were so energy sapping that on occasion, I would walk through the front door backwards just to create a different perspective. All this did was remind me how happy I was when leaving the place. That approach had a short lifespan.
This realisation of the relationship between space and one’s well-being was also further fuelled by my experience living overseas in 10 different homes. Each home unknowingly influenced the way I approached or closed out every day. I found my connection to space was influenced by simple things such as the interior palette chosen, the way the morning sun hit the courtyard, how cool it stayed on a scorching summers day, how poorly soundproof the walls were and even the type of carpet used in the toilet, (yes, its true and it was a big hairy purple shagpile!). All these things would force a slight change of behaviour; some relaxing, others suppressing. Yet the relationship between space and emotion was undeniably connected and would slowly become a fascination for me that would transcend to the urban landscape. Which unfortunately for those accompanying me on a trip or a simple walk down the street would only increasingly become too aware of as I constantly questioned the existence of all things urban and spatial. Why was this street more welcoming than the other? Why have people chosen to converse in that area and not this one? And did lawn mower enthusiasts invent the suburban nature strip?!
Fortunately then, I chose a career in property where I could apply theory as to why things were the way they were. Through this process I soon discovered that knowing doesn't necessarily mean being satisfied with the answer. As my experience grew, so too did the realisation that the industry was unashamedly applying approaches from yesterday to deal with the way we live today. It was like hearing "my roof my rules'" all over again. This led me to become interested in the significant impact technology was having in the way we use space whilst increasingly becoming aware of just how reluctant the property industry was to change. It was somewhat of a conundrum…like the excitement of going on a four-day road trip only to find the driver wanted to listen to nothing other than Miley Cyrus. Hopefully the recent entry of Google into the property sector is the beginning of another disruptive moment, echoing Airbnb and Uber in their respective industries… "Hey Google, No Miley please".
Exploring this issue, had me questioning;
"If it took Melbourne 175 years to build 2 million homes and we will need to build the same amount in the next 40 years, how would I like to see my city evolve? "
That made me take notice and challenge the importance of space within our community. I was adamant the pressure of change was inevitable as the city would only densify further as it increasingly encourages reduced car usage to deal with one of its greatest threats: congestion. How we envision the future utilisation of our spaces whilst solving the expected need for 2 million homes will become critical. It is by no means a simple puzzle, but knowing that you can just as easily create bad spaces as you can good, is cause for urgency to review our current approaches. If we don’t, then our place of sanctuary may one day be replaced by a big hairy purple shagpile… “Hey Google, maybe Miley wasn’t so bad after all”.
A property expert with over 25 years experience working across both private and public sectors, predominately within the housing space.