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A substantial backyard has long been considered an iconic feature of the Australian suburb. Nevertheless, during the 1990s, a dramatic change occurred: substantial backyards largely disappeared from new suburban houses in Australia.
Whatever the size of lot, the dwelling now covers most of its developable area. Although the planning system does not actually promote this change, it does little to prevent it. It appears to be a physical expression of the way that Australian lifestyles are changing for the worse, in particular longer working hours. This in turn raises issues about health and wellbeing, especially for children.
Vegetation surrounding the dwelling plays an important role in microclimate, storm drainage and biodiversity, irrespective of whether the residents use their backyard. Its loss has serious ecological implications, a deficit rendered permanent by the changes to the housing stock.
The Life and Death of the Australian Backyard is based on a detailed quantitative study of this increasing, but previously unstudied, problem. It discusses the nature, uses and meaning of the traditional backyard, presents an understanding of the changes that have been happening and suggests possible remedies. All professionals working in the landscape and development industries, local government, consultancies and in universities should read this unique study of an issue of increasing significance to urban sustainability.
Preface and acknowledgements
Chapter 1 The origins, form and function of the backyard
Chapter 2 The meaning of the backyard
Chapter 3 The death of the backyard
Chapter 4 Why is the backyard shrinking?
Chapter 5 Why does the planning system not prevent the shrinkage?
Chapter 6 What should be done to preserve the backyard?
Tony Hall is an Adjunct Professor within the Urban Research Program at Griffith University where he is investigating, and promoting, sustainable patterns of urban form. In 2004, he retired from the position of Professor of Town Planning at Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, UK, and came to live in Brisbane. Originally a transport planner, he later retrained in urban design and has written significant books on design guidance. Rather unusually, he also served as a local councillor for Chelmsford and led its planning policy for seven years, achieving a government award for environmental quality in 2003.
"This thought-provoking book should be read by all professional planners and developers. It is an important reference for planning and environmental students. Finally, the implications of a generation of Australian children growing up without a backyard extend well beyond the planning sphere – this book will be used across many academic disciplines."
- John Todd, Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, Vol 19 (2), pp. 135-136, June 2012
"Hall’s book may be a turning point in our understanding of what is happening in our own backyard. Examining what to some may appear a quirky topic more suited to eccentricity; Hall presents a statistical and illustrated delight to demonstrate his findings. Hall’s book deserves to be widely read and anyone reflecting on how our society is changing should ensure that they consider the life and death of the Australian backyard."
- Trevor Budge, Geographical Research 2012, Institute of Australian Geographers, pp. 220-221
"The Life and Death of the Australian Backyard is a useful and stimulating contribution to both planning and design, and the field of suburban history. Hall’s study of Australia’s shrinking backyards is a timely reminder of, and a reflection on, the changing Australian way of life at the turn of the twenty-first century."
- Ruth Morgan, The University of Western Australia
"Tony Hall’s book is an important contribution to the debate on urban form and the need to consider urban form in planning for urban futures. The book is not only important in its contribution but is superbly well presented and is engaging and readable. Each chapter is illustrated with excellent diagrams and photographs, supplemented by a section that includes fascinating colour aerial views of housing developments. I would recommend this book. It highlights important issues. The general reader as well as the planner and urban specialist would find much to engage them in the book."
- Claire Freeman, Urban Policy and Research, Vol 29, No 1, p. 91–102, March 2011
"Although this book takes a somewhat academic viewpoint, the arresting material offers something for every reader interested in why these changes are happening, and what we can do to preserve the important microclimates and habitats for biodiversity that are quite literally in our own backyards."
- Sanctuary, March 2011
"This book is concisely written, clearly illustrated and extremely well researched. While I consider that its primary market is likely to be professional, comprising architects, planners, developers, engineers and surveyors, I note that Hall was recently interviewed by Allan Saunders "By Design". Hopefully, there will be a wider dissemination and appreciation of the importance of Hall's conclusions, beyond the housing experts into areas of public health and social need."
- Rodney Jensen, Cityscape Creative Cities, Vol 42 October 2010