Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Woodmar, Indiana

From the Munster, Indiana Times 18 April 1924 p. 1 (94 years ago today...)

Below is a portion of an advertisement which appears in the same newspaper for 7 April, 1925 p. 9:
Woodmar is here, and the Baring and Knickerbocker Parkways are extant, however I am uncertain of the exact perameters of the subdivision is which is being described in this article. More research is required, I suspect. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Brittgården, Tibro, Sweden

'Foot path' sketch from a book co-produced by housing ministries/agencies in the five nordic nations, Housing in the Nordic Countries Copenhagen 1968, p. 201

Monday, April 16, 2018

Reserve bounded by Gellibrand Crescent, Allenby Avenue and High Street Reservoir, Victoria

This is probably the last remaining 'intact' internal reserve from the swathe of IRs created by Saxil Tuxen in the Merrilands Estate launched 1919 - so forget a thousand years of solitude, this space is about to celebrate 100 years of emptiness.* View it here

Laneway from Gellibrand Ave:
New homes on Gellibrand use the access way for garages:


 From the reserve looking north to Gellibrand Ave:

* Flippancy is always fun but of course we have no idea how the reserve might have been used over the 20th century, only that it hasn't had much use (except for rear access to properties) in the 21st. History tells us that IRs generally have an ebb and flow as far as use is concerned.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Playground off Eaton Street (Eaton Parade), Laverton, Victoria

A plan produced under the Housing Commission of Victoria from the mid-70s held in the Public Records Office of Victoria shows a 'play ground' in the three-cornered block of the Laverton Estate. View the actual site here and you will see that, while the street plan was executed roughly to this ideal the internal reserve in question was not included (or at least is not there now). Once again, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when this argument (if argument it was) was had.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

St Phillack Reserve, Rawson, Victoria

The internal reserve is most definitely a feature derived from early 20th century town planning. Our hypothesis, broadly speaking, is that the planners of that era were of the opinion that internal reserves gave residents of planned environments agency to shape not only their local public space but also the character and purpose of their community. However, changes in both western society (from communal ideal to individual, inward-focused family) and planning practice (little was built or designed during the 1930s and 40s, meaning that many estates designed in the 1920s or earlier were still being populated in the 1950s) left residents at best uncertain about the internal reserves they had inherited, and at worst antipathetic towards them.

It is always surprising, then, when late 20th century designs which are not directly related to new urbanism include internal reserves. The small town of Rawson – 120 homes in less than 20 streets in the west Gippsland area of Victoria, close to the well-known gold mining ‘ghost town’ of Walhalla – was commenced in the late 1970s by the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works, a long standing and for much of its existence very powerful semi-autonomous state government body. Though this was almost certainly not obvious at the time, the MMBW was at this point in its last decade of existence.

Rawson was built to house those working on the nearby Thomson Dam, with dormitories constructed for labourers and relatively grand homes for professional staff. Rawson, at its peak, housed 1500 people, an article in the Melbourne Age by Barbara Fih (‘The town that is too good to stay alive, Age 15 May 1985 p. 3) tells us. Fih also recounts that the MMBW ‘built a 25-metre swimming pool, squash courts, three tennis courts, a shopping centre, oval, recreation hall with a basketball court in it, a primary school and reserve.’ The town ran at capacity for two years until May 1983, when the dam was opened after which the population quickly dwindled and the houses were sold off. Public services were opened to tender with the MMBW: the local petrol station, as one example, was advertised as available for lease with the option to purchase (The Age, Wednesday 20 June 1984, p. 28).

The ‘reserve’ Fih mentions is probably not the internal reserve of interest to this blog, but a sports and recreation reserve on  Tyers-Walhalla Road. Even Google Maps seems resistant to recognizing the St Phillack Reserve, which is however featured on Baw Baw Shire’s website and noted for featuring a ‘playground’ and ‘walking trails unpaved’. Which is all true! However, confusingly, the reserve is not zoned as open space (though clearly used and, as mentioned, labeled as such).

The space is best described as an off-street children’s playground and dog park (though in truth the streets of Rawson seem to be rarely troubled by traffic). The play equipment, though not new, is in good condition. What is perhaps most interesting about the site in terms of its design is that it features a large number of old and tall trees, and while no doubt the entire Rawson area was until quite recently covered in similar vegetation, in this instance it is clear that the decision was made that an interior park space would be an opportunity to retain trees on site.

Many of the local homes feature transparent (usually, chicken wire) back fences and many also have gates into the reserve, which has three entrances. Cooper’s Creek begins’ immediately south of the St Phillack Reserve but does not appear to have ever run through the land the reserve is currently located on.

A note about names: The name St Phillack is apparently that of a mountain. The nearby street Von Meuller Drive commemorates noted landscape gardener and botanist Ferdinand von Mueller (note – the commemoration misspells his name!) who climbed Mount Baw Baw. Another nearby mountain, Mt. Selma, is the inspiration for Selma Drive. Other streets recall the area’s gold mining history: Morning Star Crescent is named for the Morning Star Gold Battery site, a significant heritage location proximate to Walhalla, and Little Boy Crescent the goldfields tramway of that name. Stander Drive is after a creek. The town itself is named for a local landowning family; it was a source of some controversy at the time of creation, as the MMBW favoured the name Robertson after chief engineer A. G. Robertson (some locals are reported in a 1979 Age article to have favoured Parker Corner, apparently an extant local place name - though MMBW advertising from the late 1970s renders this as Barker's Corner) (Steve Harris and Kerry Wakefield, ‘Town hits problems’, Melbourne Age 26 April 1979 p. 13).

View it here. More pictures below. 

Thanks to the redoubtable Victoria Kolankiewicz for extensive work on this post, including locating the reserve in the first place. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

‘The Deeplish Study’ 1966

This case study of ‘environmental improvement’ (its subtitle is ‘Improvement possibilities in a district of Rochdale’) contains a number of examples of recalibration of 19th century urban environments to provide open space in what we would typify as ‘internal reserve’ style. The area is known as Deeplish, in the south of Rochdale, Lancashire.

‘The houses are usually clean and neat… But unmade roads, ill-kept back alleys, allotments, derilect land, old broken walls, groups of garages, the dirty brook and some untidy buildings contribute to a generally run-down impression… it looks as though the people responsible for various parts of it have given up trying to make it look attractive’ (p. 2). There is considerable discussion of derilect and/or allotment land used for children’s play (p. 10 passim). The author(s) also state, tellingly, that when asked their opinion about ‘outdoor play facilities for children… they expressed the easily articulated demand for a children’s fitted playground… The mothers’ main worry was the danger to children from traffic. (p. 30).’

Having set up the problems inherent in a place such as ‘Deeplish’, the study then goes on to imaginatively suggest a range of redesign options. Many of these include what we would call (but it doesn’t) internal reserves. ‘For the smallest children,’ it says, ‘play space has to be very close to the houses and in a district where back access to the houses is common it can be combined with a broader and improved back walk’ (p. 49)’. This is reiterated on p. 61, in a discussion of one particular sector where ‘the opening up, paving and lighting of the back walks would render these suitable for toddlers’ playgrounds within sight of their homes’.

I have presented here two images of many. 
The image above may give you some idea of the areas that are being hypothetically improved, and some of the proposals for rear access paths behind houses, which are not per se internal reserves but which represent at least some of the conceptualized spaces. 

This image, which conforms more closely to the kind of space we’re interested in, is not really described in the text, although there is discussion of improvement of waste land generally, for instance thus:

‘An area may also be greatly improved by the planting of trees, the removal of unsightly fences and sheds and the landscaping of spare patches of land. The local authority can also take a lead in promoting a scheme for the particular benefit of a group of houses by agreement among owners.'

Another, very familiar trope is canvassed in this same paragraph: 

'But vandalism is a problem, and unless the vigilance of local people can be enlisted in looking after what is in fact part of their living space, the life of new trees, seats, swings etc., may be short’ (p. 50).  

Oh, and um...

Friday, January 19, 2018

Kingswood Centre, Basildon UK

I haven't been there, but it seems very intact. Here's what's said about it in Osborn and Whittick's 1963 The New Towns: the Answer to the Megalopolis (pp. 258-9):

'Following one footpath in an easterly direction one comes on an extensive lawn sprinkled with trees and containing in one part the various odd objects of a children's playground. Some of the houses front on to this open space, others have their small walled or white-fenced gardens adjoining it.'

Woodmar, Indiana

From the Munster, Indiana Times 18 April 1924 p. 1 (94 years ago today...) Below is a portion of an advertisement which appears in...