Monday, August 25, 2008

middle-class ruins

My favourite suburban architecture is the "middle-class ruin". There are a few gems around although they are becoming scarce as developers take hold. Once lovely weather-board homes have been left to fade in middle-class leafy streets. Their elderly occupants do likewise as the lawn threatens to swallow them and their decrepit, unpainted coffins whole.

Not far from my house one of these is piled under tons of scrap metal, old fence posts and palings, rusty car doors and broken garden furniture. If the house wasn't positioned prominently on a slope overlooking the street, the entire block would look like a junk yard. Instead the house, its balcony crammed to the rafters with detritus, displays its face to the middle-class street. It defies the trim lawns and designer landscape gardens, the ecologically sound architecture with four-wheel drive tanks parked in the driveways to lodge a complaint.

In the wilderness between my home and work a derelict building site for a dream home lies frozen at the moment the money ran out. Neatly stacked timber and bricks are succumbing to dandelions, uncut grass and ivy. Kids have smashed the windowpanes and scrawled tags on the rendered walls. Bright fingers of electrical wiring emerge from a hole in the eaves over the front door. Are they clutching at the space where a light fitting was supposed to be?

An abandoned swimming pool. Its blue paint is cracking and peeling. Slimy black sludge has collected at the deep end. A few straggly weeds are sprouting here too. In spring they'll flower into pretty, white daisies. Is that the corpse of a possum or a cat down there?

There are places even in Melbourne's suburban sprawl where the imagination can roam free.

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