Recently the topic of Medium Density Housing has been hot in architectural circles. And so it should be. We have a housing "crisis" which has prompted the government to make some ambitious promises about delivery.
Typical to human nature, we only tend to change our ways when faced with a crisis, that point that says "not anymore". But my worry with this one is that we see the solution to the crisis in speed. Speed in delivery of housing. So anxious to solve the issue, we seem to have this tendency to launch headfirst into the reactive solution, and we may be missing a critical step. If what we are doing is not a good solution then we are speedily creating another problem. To my way of thinking, this is not a solution. Its a problem making process and we are speedily already on our way.
Shortages of land availability has led some cities in New Zealand to take a good hard look at the options available in types of housing. We live in the aftermath of the quarter-acre dream, still dreaming it possible yet failing to open to our eyes and realize that that time has passed us by. Still, we produce on mass a housing typology developed in those times. We need to stop and look at the options. Not just designers and architects, everyone. We all shape our cities, starting at the most fundamental level. The level of ourselves, our choices and decisions, our knowledge and facing our preconceptions of the change.
Hamilton is facing an interesting time. Land availability can become available more easily, unlike Auckland and Wellington. Yet there are still processes and thinking in place to rush headlong to reproducing the same housing typology that we have realized for the past decades. Housing Companies have built their business upon this typology and real estate agents have forecast their commission on it. But anyone in business would know, the future is what you have to be anticipating, not the past. Do we as a city have to wait until we have no other option before we challenge how we are doing things? I have heard that someone has coined Hamilton as the "City of the Future." That would be amazing, as I think Hamilton has fantastic potential. However, while I respect big hairy audacious goals, I think simply stating a goal is only the starting point. You have to believe it possible and then you have to find ways to make it possible. If we are actually aspiring to be the city of the future, why are we holding on to past solutions and reproducing them like never before? My aspiration for our "city of the Future" is that we dare to do differently. We can use this as an opportunity to show the rest of New Zealand that there is a new way to do things by losing the fear of unpredictability a little and trusting in our intelligence and talent to create a better tomorrow.
Albert Einstein, a name famous throughout the world for not accepting the status quo and mastering creative thinking said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." We need to look at Medium Density Housing, we need to remove our fear from badly realized New Zealand examples, we need to build on learnings that other international cities have done and we need to create a different result if we really are serious about achieving our big hairy audacious goal.