Perth, the city of light is expanding. Already in the 20th century a carpet of low rise houses clustered around a few tall skyscrapers in the City Business District (one in every city) spreading for miles and miles, approximately 30 in every direction. Each unit stands in its own space, often surrounded on three sides with a fence, but with space all round for gardening. The city’s 21st century progression, fired by a massive mining boom (again), is spreading outwards and upwards.
It is hard to begin to describe what a gated community looks like here. A high wall, crowded inside up to the very edge with bungalows. (A UK term completely foreign here, they are called units, which since they have only one floor does suffice). Each unit stands in its own space, often surrounded on three sides with a fence, but with space all round for gardening. In some of the more expansive developments there might be room for a campervan between the house and the wall, in which case there is generally a campervan parked in such a space.
Outlook there is none, since only the roof is higher than the wall – these are inwards-looking centres of excellence.
In the older parts of the city (pictures to follow) the units are mostly built around the 1930s-50s, there is pretty much nothing older than that still standing.
Along the coast and in some places in the city two storey houses are appearing and there are one or two terraces of pretty houses, again two storeys which look more typical of old Melbourne than old Perth.
The materials are also foreign to my English eyes, many of the roofs are corrugated iron, steeply pitched and where not rusting to an attractive red brown, are a delicate silver. Other roofing materials seem to be pantiles in reds, blues and greens. Some houses have verandahs, and some have porches. Most of the older ones are brick or pebble dash and look as though they have been lifted from an English seaside town like Rottingdean.
The modern houses, still units built in their own one and a half acres plot, are mostly concrete. There are plenteous examples.
The other remarkable thing is that there are no corner shops in large areas of this expanding city. The shopping areas are clustered together, and these are generally two storey buildings taking up a whole block with a shaded walkway for passing trade.
In the centre, more skyscrapers are going up. Mostly offices but also quite a few residential blocks. And the cultural centre looms massively in a sandy grey and houses the Art Gallery and the Library of Western Australia; several new departments and buildings have also gone up around the same site.
The streets are lined with trees and there are plenty of parks and lakes, wide nature strips of grass separate the pedestrians from the traffic.
Then there are the rivers. The River Swan and the Canning snake through the city, wide and slow up into the wine growing areas, creating a huge natural basin which exits to the sea in a norrow channel at Fremantle. The banks are largely undeveloped as yet, with cycle paths and walks along the river edge; though there is an alarming encroachment starting as developers seize the moment and build riverside units for the wealthy. Perth, it should be said, has many very wealthy inhabitants for a city that many Australians regard as the back of beyond. I haven’t even started on the sea front.
Highways and freeways carry the modest amount of traffic through and around the city and rush hour here looks more like a slow Sunday, than anything you might see in London. If you have to wait for the lights to change more than twice you are in a traffic jam!
There are some beautiful trees. Ghostly white barked gums and other gum trees, many in flower; Norfolk pines; feathery leaved pepper trees; jacarandas; bottle brush trees in reds and yellows; mimosas and many others which I cannot identify.
I love this city and its people, who are largely friendly and generous with their time. Thank you to my wonderful host.