On Wog Palaces

Important Note: In Australian English the term ‘Wog’ – while historically a racist slur – has over many decades been reclaimed by the immigrant community and is now a marker of pride for Australians of Greek, Italian and Balkan heritage, and a neutral term for describing said Australians for the rest of us. With that cleared up, read on!

In the wake of World War II Australia found itself in need of workers, and unable to supply that need from traditional English and (slightly less desirable) Irish sources relaxed its horribly racist immigration policies a smidgen to let southern Europeans slip in as if they were proper white people. With Europe in ruins many Greeks and Italians took advantage of this and relocated, bringing with them exotic fruits and vegetables (broccoli? what the hell is broccoli?), proper coffee culture (Starbucks lost $165 million when they tried launching here in 2000) and food preparation techniques beyond ‘aggressively boiling into submission’, enriching the nation beyond all measure.

They also brought the distinctive architectural styling of the Wog Palace.

You are an Italian immigrant and decide to start a new life in Perth, Western Australia (if you were Greek you’d likely go to Melbourne). You arrive in a country where you don’t speak the language, you can’t get a decent coffee anywhere and the locals treat you with scorn and suspicion. Nonetheless you buckle down, work your arse off – likely in the construction industry – twelve or more hours a day, seven days a week and after some years have saved enough money not just to bring your family out from the old country, but to buy a block of land on the edge of the city and build a home for them. Naturally you do the labour yourself (with your kids’ help as soon as they’re old enough to safely pick up a brick) and after several years your luxurious new home is ready to move into. You have a Wog Palace to call your own!

So, what are the distinctive features of a Wog Palace?

Size: You have a large family to accommodate, and you’ve secured a large block of land, so you’re going to have five or six bedrooms, and plenty of entertainment space. It’s common to go double story, particularly if you decide to include an integral garage, and if you do include a garage why not make it a double? Some outbuildings for storage and food/wine production are also a good idea, and why not a swimming pool too?

Verandas and Balconies: What use is a house if you can’t sit outside in comfort and enjoy the view? On a two story Wog Palace you’ll have balconies. On a one story you’ll have a verandah instead.

Brick: The material of choice for a Wog Palace is brick. Preferably dark brown, but lighter shades will do in a pinch. Plastering over the brick for a smooth exterior can be done, but is a bit gauche.

Gardens: A productive garden is a must! Vegetable patches, olive trees, grape vines and fruit trees. These will usually be out the back because the front garden will likely have been concreted over for parking space.

Arches: Anglos may be content with right angles, but a proper Wog Palace will use arches instead. Arched windows, arched doors, arched verandas and balconies. Arches are class!

Pillars and Lions: Need a balustrade or something to stop the kids falling off your balcony? You need white, semi-classical pillars! And why not throw up some statues of lions to guard the place while you’re at it?

Low Pitched Roof: A subtle distinction but an important one. Anglo houses have steeply pitched roofs to prevent snow build up – which is not a threat in Perth’s Mediterranean climate and actually something of a disadvantage as they tend to trap heat in our blazing summers. The architectural tradition of the Wog Palace – developed in an actual Mediterranean climate – uses lower pitched roofs sufficient to shed rain without all that wasted space. The roof may even be flat enough to be used as an additional entertaining space in fine weather.

It is an entertaining game to look for Wog Palaces while driving around Perth. They’re a useful marker for the edge of urban development during periods of heavy immigration – which is why you can spot so many along Morley Drive and up in the Swan Valley. They are, in my opinion, some of the best houses even constructed in the city, and where I even in the position to upgrade from my apartment to a house I would definitely be on the lookout for one.

A few examples of Wog Palaces in their native habitat

A Machine for Living In

So, I was thinking the other day about what kind of house I’d like t0 live in.

I live in an apartment. And I get by OK in an apartment, but I must admit it would be nice to have a bit more space in which to store all my crap, and in which to entertain guests from time to time. I mean I could get rid of all my crap, but my possessions are the only things keeping me safe from the howling existential bleakness of reality, so they’re not going anywhere.

(Hoarder? I hardly knew ‘er!).

So a house would be nice. But what features would a distinctly bizarre peculiar unique person such as myself require in a house? I had a good think and came up with a list. And then I started playing around with how to fit the various features of the list together. And then I thought about how to fit the resulting vague, house shaped blob onto a block of land. And then I thought about how to adapt the blob to different block shapes and sizes. And that’s where I had my idea!

Object Oriented House Design!

What if one was to describe a house not in terms of walls and doors and square footage, but as a hierarchy of interlinked objects with various properties? You could define an entire dwelling in terms of what each room needs to do, and how it relates to the rest of the rooms without even sketching out a floor plan. You could then hand the definition off to an architect who could use their specialised knowledge to translate it into an actual house plan to fit onto an actual, specific block. Brilliant!

So I decided to try and define my dream house in just this fashion…


Notes:
* Any room may connect to any other room. Only required Access is listed in definition
* LargeAccess is defined as being easily able to move a couch, bed, or upright piano between rooms with a minimum of swearing.

Driveway:
Access:
LivingSpace
LargeAccess:
Street, Garage
Requirements: Space for two cars to be parked.

Garage:
LargeAccess: Storeroom OR Workshop
Requirements: Enough space to move comfortably around one car with all doors/hatches open.

Storeroom:
LargeAccess: Workshop, (Library), (Garage)
Requirements: Large room with plenty of shelving.

Workshop:
LargeAccess:
Storeroom, Courtyard, (Library), (Garage)
Requirements: Large room with a water supply, multiple power outlets and plenty of natural light.

Library:
Access:
Study
LargeAccess: Storeroom OR Workshop
Requirements: Large room with lots of built in bookshelves and room for a decent sized table and chairs and a few comfortable armchairs. Minimal natural light to avoid fading of precious manuscripts and gewgaws.

Courtyard:
Access:
Laundry
LargeAccess: Storeroom OR Workshop, MasterBedroom, LivingSpace
Requirements: Paved space open to sky. Receives direct sunlight in winter, filtered sunlight in summer. Retractable washing line. Provision for planters and pots. Private space protected from the nosy gaze of neighbours or random passers by.

MasterBedroom:
Access: Study
Proximity: BathroomOne, ToiletOne
LargeAccess: Courtyard
Requirements: Decent sized bedroom with large, built in wardrobes.

Study:
Access: MasterBedroom, Library
Requirements: Room for shelving, a decent sized computer desk and various computer accessories.

BathroomOne:
Proximity:
MasterBedroom, ToiletOne
Requirements: Reasonably sized bathroom with sink and shower.

ToiletOne:
Proximity:
MasterBedroom, BathroomOne
Requirements: Toilet room with own sink.

Laundry:
Access: Courtyard
Requirements: Laundry room with washer, dryer and room for storage.

LivingSpace:
Access: Driveway, Kitchen, Dining
LargeAccess: Courtyard
Requirements: Large, open plan living space connecting via open plan with Kitchen and Dining. Curtains and ceiling mounted projector provides ability to use as home theatre. Front door separated from rest of room by solid divider so the Mormons can’t peer inside.

Dining:
Access: Kitchen, LivingSpace
Requirements: Open plan dining area connecting via open plan with Kitchen and LivingSpace. Room for eight-seater table and chairs.

Kitchen:
Access: Dining, LivingSpace
Requirements: Open plan kitchen with all mod cons (except for obviously stupid ones like internet connected fridges or DRM plagued fruit juice bag squeezers) connecting via open plan with Dining  and LivingSpace.

Utility:
Requirements: Hot water heater, batteries for the solar system and other such gubbins.

GuestRoomOne:
Proximity: BathroomTwo, ToiletTwo
Requirements: Decent sized bedroom with built in wardrobes.

GuestRoomTwo:
Proximity: BathroomTwo, ToiletTwo
Requirements: Decent sized bedroom with built in wardrobes.

BathroomTwo:
Proximity:
GuestRoomOne, GuestRoomTwo, ToiletTwo
Requirements: Larger bathroom with sink, bathtub and shower.

ToiletTwo:
Proximity:
GuestRoomOne, GuestRoomTwo, BathroomTwo
Requirements: Toilet room with own sink.

Overall Notes:
* Entire house heavily insulated against both heat and sound.
* Roof festooned with as many solar panels as decency allows.
* Configurable LED lighting throughout.
* Use of passive technologies to control temperature and energy use.
* Rainwater tanks.


So there we go. Short of winning the lottery or coming up with a a really good way to blackmail some well-known public figure it’s unlikely I’ll ever have the resources to construct such a dwelling, but I think the exercise has value. Not least in establishing a new paradigm in architect/client/Kevin McCloud relations.