The South East Queensland Regional Plan indicates that approximately 575,000 new dwellings are required to accommodate the projected population changes in SEQ by 2026.1 A number of social, economic and environmental costs associated with the current dispersed pattern of urban development are now becoming an increasing threat to the quality of urban life.2
Medium-density housing is viewed by a number of housing theorists as having the potential to address many of the demands created by increasing population and changing demographics in SEQ. However, by increasing housing density, greater pressure is placed on the quantity and quality of exterior space. While the amount of exterior space is inevitably reduced in moving from detached dwellings to medium-density housing, the quality should not be compromised. It is argued that in many existing forms of medium-density housing in SEQ (highlighted by the six-pack), there is a lack of consideration for the design of exterior space. In this argument, it is suggested that the improved design of exterior space is required to alter negative perceptions of the typology and to make higher-density living more desirable.
The dissertation identifies a set of nine general principles that contribute to the making of positive exterior space. In essence, positive exterior space can be thought of as the considered treatment of space between buildings to establish an enriching external environment that is equally as important as the building itself.3 Eight of the principles are distilled from research of well-regarded European medium-density housing schemes and the opinions of a number of key theorists. The ideas evident in European housing precedents can be seen as instructive, as the designers have previously adopted design strategies that create desirable external living environments at higher densities. The ninth principal, ‘Subtropical/Climatic Design Response’ is discussed in relation to a specific SEQ context. Together the nine general principles form a set of criteria that is used to assess two contemporary medium-density housing schemes located in the inner suburbs of Brisbane. In conducting an analysis of the two case studies, the outlined principles are tested in a SEQ context, and the extent to which the schemes adhere to the principles of positive exterior space is made evident. Furthermore, it is envisaged that the outcomes of this analysis may provide insight into the future direction for the improved design of exterior space and its potential to inform the development of a more appropriate medium-density housing typology in the region.
1 Queensland Government Office of Urban Management, “South East Queensland Regional Plan,” http://www.oum.qld.gov.au.
2 Bruce Judd, Designed for Urban Living: Recent Medium-Density Group Housing in Australia, (Canberra: The Royal Australian Institute of Architects, 1993), 7.
3 Serge Chermayeff and Christopher Alexander, Community and Privacy, (USA: Doubleday & Co. Inc. 1963), 66.