The architecture in Australian suburbs in the post-war period was deeply influenced by the influx of European migrant groups, says associate professor Mirjana Lozanovska from Deakin University’s School of Architecture and Built Environment.
In her new book ‘Migrant Housing: Architecture, Dwelling, Migration’, the Deakin architectural researcher explores the profound impact of post-war migration on the look and shape of Australian suburbs. Lozanovska says that housing built from the 1950s onwards often had a distinctive look that set it apart from other homes in the neighbourhood. Typically, these houses featured white, faux-marble pillars and balusters, grand staircases to the front door and a lemon tree in the front lawn.
According to Lozanovska, architecture was the reason that ethnicity and multiculturalism were up for discussion in the post-war period in Melbourne.
“The whole idea of cultural difference emerged in Australia because of the very visual changes that Southern Europeans were making to the built environment,” she observed.
Features such as bigger windows and spacious front terraces, lemon and olive trees planted out front, and espresso bars and cafes on the high streets transformed the city in a very distinctive way. While these dramatic transformations to the built environment of the city were quite noticeable, they were often greatly disparaged by the homogeneity of the Anglo-Celtic communities that had resulted from five decades of the White Australia Policy, Lozanovska observed.
Commenting on her new book, which is based on 30 years of research examining the house as the architectural construct in the processes of migration, she says, “Australia was one of the few places that offered the possibility of permanent residency and citizenship in the post-war period, which is one of the reasons why, despite the huge geographical barrier, it became a desirable place to immigrate to.
“It was because of this distance that the dream of home ownership became so meaningful. It was the only thing that could compensate these migrant groups for the sacrifice they’d made to leave their homeland.”
Despite the hardships in the beginning, especially in accessing loans or finance, Southern European migrants surpassed the local Anglo-Celtic community in home ownership rates. The book also covers the villages, towns and cities the immigrants left behind.
“Migrant Housing is about both sides of the migration coin: immigration and emigration. It’s not only about cities of immigration like Melbourne, but also about the places of origin and what happens to those places because of emigration,” she says.
Image credit: Mirjana Lozanovska