Density & Detachment
By Elly Ward
Monkston has an area of 73 hectares, a population of 2,145 and a total of 927 dwellings which equates to 12.7 dwellings per hectare. Of the 927 dwellings, 485 are detached houses, 173 are semi-detached, 184 are terraces and 85 are flats.
Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan has an area of 24 hectares, a population of 19,101 and a total of 8,757 apartments which equates to 364 dwellings per hectare. The 8,757 apartments are grouped into 36 tower blocks that are 17 storeys high.
Both Monkston and Stuyvesant Town have a large central, public green space for residents use and the residents are predominantly – though not exclusively – white, educated middle income families.
Stuyvesant Town is described by residents as being like ‘surburbia in the city’. This suggests that form and density are not necessarily the driving characteristics of suburban life and that perhaps the suburban characteristics and other successful elements of high density environments could be identified, extracted, tested and reapplied to other low density situations.
Monkston’s most desirable residence is a five bedroom detached house. To many, a detached house is the ultimate, aspirational dwelling – an impossible dream for the average urbanite but an attainable goal in the suburbs. Even in a low density, suburban context it can be difficult to satisfy the number of dwellings required without attaching them in some way, and very often the spaces that exist between so-called ‘detached’ houses is laughably minute provoking scorn and disbelief in their desirability.
But it is human nature to not want to be too close to one’s neighbour. We claim and defend our personal space, visible or not. Some crave complete exclusion but most people like to be where are other people are and feel part of a community. Close, but not too close.
Detached. Not touching.
If each household in Monkston was allocated a one acre plot with a detached house as in the proposal for Broadacre, the ultimate low density city proposed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1932, either a site seven times the size would be required, or the plots would need to be stacked seven storeys high.
If the total area of Monkston was divided equally between the residents, each household would be able to have a detached house on a plot that measured 787.4m2.
If the space currently allocated to streets, public space and SLOAP in Monkston were rearranged and reallocated, it would be possible to award the existing ideal of a detached property with an average total floor area of 168m2 over two storeys on a 354m2 plot to every single household in Monkston in any number of different arrangements.
See “Re-Imagining Monkston : Adventures in Low Density” for more.
The possibilities are endless, but which one best resolves the negative aspects of the suburb and successfully delivers the dream?