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Garden Suburbs

A tangible product of early city planning and housing reform, the absorption of the garden city movement by the town planning cause enshrined aspirations of house-and-garden living within a planned suburban environment as a cornerstone of urban reform worldwide. In Melbourne, both idealists and technicians took up the goal of 'one family one house one garden'. Sir James Barrett used his long-term presidency of the Victorian Town Planning and Parks Association to endorse low-density garden suburbs over several decades.

Finding fertile ground in the self-styled garden metropolis, the town-planned house-and-garden suburb was adapted to local conditions in various ways. The State Savings Bank's Garden City estate (1929) at Fishermans Bend was the most notable outcome. The 184 duplex 'cindcrete' houses designed by G.B. Leith were directly inspired by British models like Welwyn Garden City and London County Council's Becontree Estate. Progressive surveyors worked with private subdividers to define the garden suburb as a distinctive physical entity with a street pattern breaking the hegemony of the gridiron, discouraging through-traffic, and reserving land for parks and gardens and other public uses.

The leading practitioner was Saxil Tuxen whose largest commission was the 100-acre Merrilands estate at Preston, designed complete with civic centre. Walter Burley Griffin lent his expertise and name to several schemes: the Mount Eagle and Glenard estates at Heidelberg were compact, curvilinear schemes respectful of conservation values and exemplifying the sensitivity of Griffin's distinctive 'land planning'. Other Griffin projects included the Ranelagh Country Club at Mount Eliza and the City View estate at Keilor East. By the depression years the garden suburb was reduced to harmonious cul-de-sac developments like Lempriere Avenue in St Kilda and A.V. Jennings' Beauville estate at Murrumbeena. But the goal of orderly and complete residential communities had been accepted universally by the planning profession, state housing authorities, and enlightened developers.

Robert Freestone