A few years ago, I was involved in the design of a social housing project. The project had all the best possible intentions. It aimed to address homelessness among older single women by building high-quality, affordable eco-townhouses in a gentrifying suburb close to the city.

Like many architect-designed projects, it came in over budget. I watched as the project team made sacrifices to save money.

First, they settled on a cheaper block of land in a less salubrious area. Next, they abandoned the vaulted ceilings that gave the townhouses a sense of graciousness and space. Finally, they cancelled the elegant louvred windows and screened verandahs that caught the light at just the right time of day and also offered ventilation and privacy.

The result was a blueprint for just another block of townhouses – functional, bland and boring. Whether the designers could have made better use of the light offered by the new parcel of land, I don’t know. The project didn’t win its tender, the blueprint was shelved and the rest, as they say, is history.

This is an edited extract of a story published in The Saturday Paper on 11 February 2023. Subscribers to The Saturday Paper can read more here. You can also listen to Erin read her story on Schwartz Media’s 7am podcast.

Photo: Erin O’Dwyer