ARCT5531 Suburban Cultures

6 points
Not available in 2020UWA (Perth)Face to face
As the world becomes increasingly urbanised and the hinterland more remote from urban centres, the threat to wilderness is intensifying. Sprawling suburban areas are providing challenges for planners, developers, ecologists and architects as well as for the communities who reside there. Solutions for the curtailment of metropolitan spread point frequently to the densifying of urban centres and infilling of inner suburban zones. How might architects respond to the various issues and imperatives associated with the often conflicting desires for and impacts of suburban living? What are the social, cultural, economic, spatial and material qualities of suburban landscapes that appeal to and attract large sections of the population? Are they sustainable? Should they be preserved? What future development trajectories or scenarios might we imagine and implement?

As a way of addressing these complex questions confronting all developed and developing countries, this unit explores the evolution over the last two centuries of suburban cultures and landscapes around the globe. It studies the factors that gave rise to suburban ideals, patterns, practices and lifestyles as they have either changed or persisted over time. Australia's suburban culture and development provide a main focus. Themes of utopianism and pastoralism, speculation and mass production, sustainability and resilience, among others, are studied as a means of understanding the characteristics, opportunities and limitations of the liminal in-between realm of the suburb. Theorists, critics, architects and artists from Australia and overseas provide the intellectual armature for enquiry and evaluation.
Students are able to (1) demonstrate an understanding of the historical, theoretical and social contexts underlying and informing the evolution of suburban living, space and design around the world; (2) analyse and describe the particular characteristics and qualities of suburban space and form within contemporary cities in Australia and across the globe; (3) identify and articulate the major challenges confronting future suburban development and design; and (4) demonstrate attitudes and skills with which to make informed and appropriate interventions within existing and future suburban realms.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) a group project comprising a seminar presentation (20 to 30 minutes), short paper (1000 words) and accompanying A1 poster designed to extend and amplify the issues arising in the unit and requiring the critical analysis of a historical suburban project and (2) a major illustrated essay (4000 words) exploring an aspect of suburban culture, selected from a list of topics or devised by the student in consultation with the coordinator. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Kate Hislop
Contact hours
seminars: 3 hours per week for up to 12 weeks
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.