In the booming 1960s, Canberra adopted an innovative town planning initiative to make better use of green space in its newer suburbs, but in some places the idea failed.

Planning authorities experimented with how to accommodate the growing population of the ACT, just as garden city urban designs became popular overseas.

The Radburn model developed in the United States aimed to create pedestrian-friendly residential housing with all houses facing a shared green space without rear fencing.

Local shops and schools were accessible by paths and underground passages without crossing a road.

Paths have been designed through the Curtin Radburn estate so children can walk to school without crossing a road.(ABC News: Clarissa Thorpe )

The unusual layout has been introduced in four Canberra suburbs – Garran, Curtin, Charnwood and a small section of Hughes.

But only three have survived the test of time, and as Mr. Fluffy’s demolitions for asbestos contamination begin, the number of Radburn-style homes in these areas is expected to decline further.

Australian National University urban policy expert Patrick Troy said town planners across Australia wanted to adopt Radburn’s fashionable ideas of the 1960s.

‘They were all trying to avoid problems with the automobile,’ Professor Troy said.

“To make housing pedestrian, give children freedom and a common and shared garden space.

“It was a time when people still shopped quite often and the first programs were adopted. Car ownership was low, so you wanted to try to optimize accessibility to stores, secure children’s journeys to and from school and also making sure it was safe to walk along the trails, so there was some degree of community supervision.”

The first Radburn houses in Canberra were built in Hughes, and the second stage was built soon after in Garran.

Residents of Radburn saw possibilities in urban experimentation

In nearby Curtin, residents are still singing the praises of the Radburn design almost 50 years later.

Wendy and Michael said the open spaces were bare at first, but nearly 50 years later some parts look more like a forest.
Wendy and Michael said the open spaces were bare at first, but nearly 50 years later some parts look more like a forest.(ABC News: Clarissa Thorpe)

Wendy and Michael moved into a simple blockhouse in 1972, impressed with the open spaces and friendly neighbors.

“You feel very safe here and you get to know people, you notice people walking their dogs along the park at the same time every day,” Wendy said.

“There were a lot of women in the houses here with young children when we arrived.

“It was a great introduction to feeling part of the community as nobody had family here, everyone had moved to Canberra from somewhere else.”

While some people find the lack of back fencing very difficult, Michael said the couple enjoyed the large play areas.

“You looked out there and you knew a three-year-old boy was going to be too tired to take another step before he approached a road, and that’s one of the things that pushed us to buy here,” he said. noted.

Pam enjoys visiting the Radburn Greenspace to interact with neighbors from the tight-knit community.
Pam enjoys visiting the Radburn Greenspace to interact with neighbors from the tight-knit community.(ABC News: Clarissa Thorpe)

Pam moved to Curtin Radburn ten years ago after hearing about the idea in the 1960s.

“I lived in another area for several years and found it incredibly lonely, but here there is always something going on if I go out front in the garden,” she said.

“You won’t find people around the road, but they are in the park or the paths, the green space is in the center.

“It’s like living in a park and people use the green space. It’s not just an ornament. There’s even a regular yoga group here on Saturday mornings.”

Radburn design houses disappear in ACT and NSW

The first Radburn-design townhouses in Garran were sold to a developer in the 1990s and demolished.

Mr Fluffy’s asbestos insulation crisis also affected many Radburn Plan homes that were built in the 1960s and 1970s.

The original Radburn community was founded in 1929 in New Jersey, USA.
The original Radburn community was founded in 1929 in New Jersey, USA.

Over the next five years, all homes on which loose asbestos has been installed will be demolished under an ACT government buy-back program aimed at eliminating the toxic legacy of asbestos.

Several design areas in Radburn in New South Wales have been remodeled by public housing authorities after complaints from residents about privacy issues and criminal behavior along the lanes.

Professor Troy said Radburn’s original layout in Charnwood had also been significantly altered with tall garden fences along many paths.

“The [Radburn] regions that did better had slightly above average income, had better socio-economic circumstances,” he said.

“It’s the low-income people who haven’t done so well, and in fact they’ve had to be rebuilt in some cases.”

“The authorities had to make efforts to modernize certain areas, get rid of the [green space] common areas and convert them back to a more normal subdivision pattern, which is sad.

“But where the Radburn sites have been successful, they have been very successful and have survived for a long time.”

Professor Troy acknowledged that city planners had come full circle and were trying again to encourage walking and cycling in modern urban design.