Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Geography and Sustainable Communities


In recent decades, many cities in the industrialised west have witnessed unprecedented residential densification. The scale and pace of development is largely driven by population growth and speculative real-estate investment, enabled by strategies of urban consolidation, and manifest materially within planner’s visions for future cities shaped by notions of order and control, standardisation and homogeneity. What remains opaque is the lived experience of diversity within this seemingly more ordered, consolidating landscape. To what extent are apartments produced to accommodate diverse needs and evolving senses of home and belonging? This thesis seeks to answer this question through examination of Australian parents’ experiences raising children in apartments.

Despite being framed as the domain of singles, childless couples and empty nesters, increasing numbers of families with children are living in apartments. This presents a pronounced departure from hegemonic discourses that position a detached house as the ideal home for families with children, especially in the Australian context. When such families live in apartments, they are at risk of being seen as out-of-place, their needs poorly accommodated. Urban researchers have begun to document the challenges families with children face in higherdensity residential settings, but as yet, researchers have seldom explored the material negotiations and emotional work of parenting and making home in apartments. With planning agendas prioritising the expansion of higher-density living within a narrow format of apartment buildings, our cities are being reshaped in ways that may fail to support a diversity of needs across the life-course.

This thesis responds by examining the everyday experiences of parents living with children in apartments in Sydney, Australia’s most populous city. Qualitative methods and feminist and cultural geographic insights on housing and home foreground narratives that reveal connections between material, cultural and emotional dimensions of apartment life. Positioned as a contribution to the interdisciplinary field of housing studies, I bring together urban planning discourses and cultural norms (as they affect apartment design, materials and regulations), with the lived and embodied experiences of families who dwell in this setting. A mixed-method approach incorporating interviews, floor plan sketches and home tours, allowed insight into eighteen families’ everyday practices and emotions, the materiality of their dwellings and accompanying interactions. Spending up to four and a half hours with families over repeat visits provided in-depth understanding of homemaking processes. From this empirical base, I adopt a narrative format throughout the thesis to privilege the voices of parents and support readers’ insight into the complexity, emotion and depth of their accounts.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.