“My dream,” Joost Bakker says, “is that in 20 years’ time our food will be grown in the very suburbs in which we live. And all building rooftops will allow for that to happen. “I have no doubt,” he continues, “that by the time I’m 60 [17 years from now] suburbs will have more biodiversity than the densest rainforests. And it will be our buildings that grow the vegetation we eat.”
“I really love my house,” says Joost. “But my biggest regret is that I didn’t put a green roof on it. Of course, once I’d finished the house, I had all this confidence and I realised in hindsight that I should have done it. From that moment on I vowed I wouldn’t do another building without a green roof.” A promise that he has made good on since then.
It was always Joost’s intention to build his family home on leafy, green acreage, surrounded by gardens and bush. It took 10 years of hunting for himself and wife, Jennie, to find their perfect block of land – 2.4 hectares in the Dandenong Ranges of Victoria. “I wanted a place with good soil for gardening and somewhere I would be able to sit, have dinner and watch the sunset,” says Joost.
They didn’t build immediately. In fact, they levelled an acre where the house would sit, and set up a septic system that would feed nutrients into their newly planted orchard.
Joost, an ex-Dutch national, has vivid memories of his young life in Holland where a south-facing garden was an essential to every home. “I’ve found in Australia that home gardens aren’t as prevalent (or used as much for entertaining, dinners, etcetera), because we so often build on steep blocks. You might walk out onto your verandah, but unless you make a physical effort to create a garden…” ‘Well, it’s worth it, bugs and all’, is Joost’s unspoken sentiment, as he points to his own permeable home layout, which allows the family to walk straight out and into the surrounding gardens from every room.
Read the full story in Habitus issue #33, available now.
Words by Alice Blackwood.
Photography by Earl Carter.