Awkward, unattractive, irrational; we are growing up and that’s a time when we learn to share.
In 20 years almost half of Sydney’s population will live in apartments. In other Australian cities, the trend will be the same. This is the biggest change in housing form in our lifetime yet surprisingly little is understood about what is happening, and how we are dealing with the changes this housing revolution brings to our urban landscape and to community relations.
Awkward might describe the way we act when we move into an apartment block from the relative seclusion of our detached four bedroom home with the quintessential turn of the millennium renovation. What do you say when you meet a same floor dweller at the elevators for the first time? ‘Was my music too loud last night? Can you hear what we say and do? We don’t seem to hear you. Well not often anyway.’ As they ponder the very same question your mind turns to your new, close but not in a good way, neighbour. ‘I bet it was him that over filled the recycling bins last week? They should learn to use the right bins. I hope their visitors don’t park in my space?’
In suburbia, there are fewer rules. We do what we want, when we want, within reason. Our contact with our neighbour is pleasant because we don’t share a thing except a street name. I can use my BBQ when I like, I can swim when I like, I can swim naked if I want, I can smoke on my balcony if I want, I can smoke naked on my balcony, I can hang my washing out to dry on the balcony, I can have pot plants without saucers. Ah, the simple pleasures of my own domain. I can paint things and drive nails, hang curtains of whatever colour no matter how visible they might be to the outside world, change the floor surface without my neighbours consent and spend as little or as much as I like on repairs and maintenance. I can save for this if I like or I can spend my income howsoever I choose. I will worry about financing the new gutters another time. I own, therefore I can.
But I have left that all behind for the convenience of apartment living. No lawns. No gutters. Just a balcony and four walls: a door that I can close and leave my possessions unattended whilst I go about my day or travel abroad. Somebody else cleans the pool and worries about the chlorine levels. Somebody else tends the gardens and removes the grease spots from the car park. Somebody else worries about taking the garbage out on Sunday night. This is my new lifestyle and I like it. It is right for the times. It is right for my time. I will learn to deal with the awkwardness.