The Urban Backyard: Resilient spaces for urban dwellers.
The unsustainable nature of New Zealand’s ongoing suburban expansion is reflected by our self-entitled obsession with owning space or land. In a survey commissioned by Mitre 10 (Mitre 10, 2014), 1500 New Zealanders were asked for their opinions of the size of backyards and how they use them. “Most survey respondents, 84 per cent, agreed they liked the idea of the traditional Kiwi quarter-acre paradise - a large plot of land with a standalone house on it, and almost all said they would rather live on the traditional quarter-acre section than in high-density housing.” (Small, 2014) The backyard is a classic space that New Zealanders feel entitled to possess ownership, but if all we require is “enough room for a barbecue” and want “a bit of grass out the back” then we are consuming more space than we need. (Small, 2014) Here, begins an argument for a change in planning.Living in closer and more compact cities has been the catalyst to a more life-filled and active space in American and European cities. But close and compact are not typical to the vernacular in New Zealand. A hybrid form of city living could be found by experimenting with the typical New Zealand suburban lifestyle in urban spaces. By doing so more New Zealanders may decide to live in these new urban spaces. This research explores how a dense urban settlement can integrate the suburban model of a backyard to help facilitate better living spaces in Wellington. Smoothing the barrier between public and privatised space will help these spaces become more appropriated for encouraging human interaction and eventually promoting a sense of ownership and community over the shared backyard space.