House Parliament for Petty Politics
In 1988, Sanctuary Cove, in southeast Queensland opened with a bang. Whitney Houston and Frank Sinatra kicked off a 15 million dollar party that celebrated Australia’s first gated community (Studdart 2011). Sanctuary Cove was established as a suburb for the affluent with its own hotel, golf courses, marina, and most importantly private governance. Structured through a strata system and community council, the typology of the gated community overlays the laws of the state with a series of by-laws that determined the etiquette, décor, and decorum of neighbourly relations. The model has now spread beyond the lagoons of the Gold Coast and into most of Australia’s capital cities. Further, the ‘community council’ has been deployed in many non-gated communities; cul-de-sac suburban structures that interface a political system of governance with residential urban fabric. The purview of this government might be seen as petty. One can imagine a charter that establishes strict rules about the regular upkeep of lawns, compulsory garaging of automobiles, tethered pets, and no loud or overly smoky barbeques. Although petty, by-laws are never benign. They are exclusive – they exclude certain aesthetics and certain behaviours. While the monetary value of real-estate prices has its own very tangible mode of excluding certain demographics, the community council operates from a subtler platform. The by-laws of the gated community enforce fabricated domestic norms and implement community politics.
It is into this context that students will be asked to design a ‘House Parliament’. The building will provide the political setting within which the community can construct by-laws for the local suburban fabric. Drawing upon the parliamentary parti established by Schinkel’s Altes Museum and exported to the world’s capitols, students will construct a space of collective identity as a means to define regulations that are inclusive (not exclusive) to members of the community. The building will be representative of an identity not yet formed, but in construction through the politics played out in the building.
The site in question will be a contemporary Neoclassical-styled spec home in a Sydney based cul-de-sac development. Students will be required to transform the home into a House Parliament for the community. The specific area of intervention will be the interior of the existing home. Students will be required to respond through geometry, radical programming, and carefully instated, excavated, and fetishized decoration. The project demands that students operate between the Neoclassical-style home, and the Neoclassical parliamentary parti, to develop a space for political representation in the domestic realm of the cul-de-sac suburb.