What Happens to Back Lanes When Self-Driving Cars Take Over?

©. Tess Kelly

Austin Maynard Architects build a back lane dwelling with plans for an autonomous future.

On the face of it, the latest project from our favourite Australian firm, Austin Maynard, is pretty straightforward: A box made from recycled brick, enclosing a garage and a small apartment above. There are some nice touches, like the red and blue glazed bricks.

interior of Brickface

© Tess KellyBut what’s more interesting is the discussion about the thinking behind the design. It’s a laneway house, a concept that is becoming popular as housing prices increase in popular cities. It apparently happens in Melbourne too:

Melbourne’s property market is so inflated that we’re now seeing a generation that are not only unable to buy a home, but also struggling to find affordable places to rent close to their work, school and community. Melbourne does have one trick up its sleeve that many parents are increasingly exploring. Melbourne is strewn with under-utilised laneways and many home owners are creating a second residence in their backyard with frontage to the laneway, where their adult children can live during university and early employment.
bedroom interior brickface

Some cities like Toronto have been fighting laneway housing for decades, everyone being literally NIMBY about it. Other cities like Vancouver have welcomed it, because it is a huge opportunity for creating more affordable housing. Most cities demand that parking be preserved, but Austin Maynard makes an interesting point about the future:

view from lane

© Tess Kelly

With the rapid onset of driverless cars we will see home owners searching for new uses for their garage spaces. The ground level at Brickface has been deliberately designed with high ceilings, so it can easily be adapted into a generous living space. The garage door can be removed and replaced, to create a generous entry into a lounge, or alternatively the owner's daughter may choose to start a business on the ground floor and simply replace the garage door with a glazed shop front. There is a swath of potential for this space that, at the moment, is only a temporary storage zone for vehicles. Yet, in the future, it can be so much more.

Indeed, this is a whole different way of thinking about our back lanes, where they are no longer for car storage but become vibrant communities. The NIMBYs will have a field day with that.

Lots more images at Austin Maynard Architects.