Heritage is a cultural construction and notions of ‘history’ depend on the values of the culture from which it emerges. Protection and commemoration are political issues.
Having grown up in Italy, heritage signified Renaissance art and big important buildings. For me, it is living close to the oldest university in the world and walking around 17th-century wooden porticos.
Most of the new houses in Italy must follow the "Architecture, Beautiful Arts and landscape Department" rules. These regulations dictate what ‘heritage’ is, as well as colour palates that ensure balance with the surrounding aesthetics.
In Australia, I have noticed a different definition and aesthetic of heritage.
Melbourne feels familiar to me, because its architectural European influence, but in the last years I have observed a rapid transformation of the built environment through development and gentrification.
This transformation aligns with the term social critic James Howard called "Geography of Nowhere" (1993). He refers to the city aesthetic as stripped of its character and authenticity. The geography of nowhere is globalised and glazed until it somewhere looks like anywhere. This homogenisation is amplified by loose regulation, high house prices and rental shortages.
Hal Pawson, a housing professor at NSW University, states that Australia has not updated its national housing policy since 1945. This contributes to the housing crisis major cities are experiencing, the huge house increases and rental shortages. As people are forced out to the suburbs to rent or own a house, shops are businesses lose their patrons. As new people move into the area, new cafes, franchises, and bars open driving up prices and again, forcing residents out to the suburbs. This cycle is a driving force of gentrification and can be seen in many cities …
Little Boxes explores the phases and layers of social, political and economic impacts on the city.
Tensions between chaos and order, temporary and contemporary, time and place are caught between pages of the book that lies somewhere between photobook and real-estate magazine. The juxtaposition of old buildings, being taken over or surrounded by a high-end retail cluster of luxury condo constructions is a testimony of the impact we have on the cities we reside in. It feels like an old friend has gone under a facelift and come out looking like no one in particular, a disjuncture between memories and actuality.
Little Boxes reflects an oppressive sense of compression in our urban space to highlight the transformation of a city from a multicultural, creative city, into a sterile and homogenised “ticky-tacky little boxes”, as Malvina Reynolds was singing in 1962.