Where the Streets Have Flower Names, 2012 to 2023
Wendouree West, Victoria Australia.
Preservation of Architectural heritage often reflects a selective social bias. And Wendouree West has always been a suburb that reflected the economic agenda of others. This fact is baked into the rationalist iconography of the commission house itself. Today the low-cost aesthetic is easily identifiable as Australian Social Housing vernacular.
When planning began in 1949, the streets in Ballarat West Estate were given Botanical and Flower names. The suburb being an initiative of the then Victorian State Housing Authority. Many of the earliest houses in Wendouree West were built by the Housing Commission to accommodate Ballarat's growing housing needs brought on as part of the post Second World War economic recovery effort.
Approximately 750 prefabricated weatherboard houses were rapidly constructed in the years shortly after 1950. The simple and economic design of these houses was seen as providing the template required for low-cost building long after the 1950’s.
Repetition of basic specification meant many of these houses have the same, now iconic (split down the middle) look that is synonymous with factory built transportable design. Built with timber frames and clad with weatherboard and fibrous cement sheet most had low pitch corrugated iron roofs and red clinker brick chimneys. These chimneys being built in situ once the houses had been set on site. Internally Wendouree West Estate houses were combinations of simply laid out two and three bedroom design. Consisting of a single bathroom with a separate toilet and laundry. Joinery and appliances were standard builders’ option of the time. Recent on line real estate photos (2023) show that 70 years on many of these houses still contain he same original basic appliances like ovens, heating and sanitary fittings. Non- Housing Commission homes built in the same era typically having had multiple upgrades as more efficient and modern appliances with improved specification became available.
For occupants these homes provided access to secure and affordable housing. The trade-off for basic and standard design was having access to a generous amount of private land. Block sizes were large enough for off street parking. They had enough yard space to accommodate the amenities of family life. For children to kick a ball, ride bikes or to build cubbies' and sand pits. Spaceous enough to have swing sets and full-size trampolines. There was room for the construction of sheds to tinker in and make repairs. Somewhere to store accessories required for suburban life. For families these yards could provide for both food, and ornamental gardens. Although not lavish by today's standards, these were houses that provided the opportunity for families of reduced and fixed financial means to put down roots. A place to raise a family and to celebrate cultural milestones.
As part of subsequent revitalisation initiatives many of the Wendouree West Estate houses were painted in bold and vibrant colours, colours that lifted the mood of the suburb. Some of these paint schemes have been retained to the present day. But sadly, increasingly more recent painting tidy ups have rendered many of these original vibrant houses in "Contemporary Aspirational... cold tone grey". A colour scheme that harmonises seamlessly with the many bleak weather days in Ballarat.
From the time I started making these photographs, around 2012, some of these houses have already been demolished, while others have now been selected for demolition. This is due in part to a major re development plan initiated in 2020. This new initiative identifying multi-unit developments as being the best way to accommodate more people in need of Affordable Housing. On the very day I write this, an auction for Number 61 Maple Avenue is scheduled for 2:00pm. Estimated auction price range $320,000 to $350.000. (sold for $330,000) This House I imagine is also destined for demolition.
This photographic series does not intend to provide a solution to the many and varied complexities of the broader social housing subject. But by making photographic images, for those who are tasked with finding solutions, the clues should now be more easily read.
My objective was to document what was, and is there now. My intention being; that in doing so I am contributing to a more complete representation of Ballarat’s social and architectural heritage. Where The Streets Have Flower Names is focused on the more recent heritage narrative. One it seems is considered, by some, as being less worthy. A chapter in history that gets overlooked all to often in favour of the more embellished reproductions of British Colonial and Victorian Gold Rush era. While the story of some suburban cultral development is being conveniently erased.
Wendouree gets its name from the local Australian First Nations Wadawurrung word “wendaaree” meaning be off or go away.