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AJ100 interview: Andy von Bradsky, PRP

‘Housing was the first sector into recession and it could be first out’

The ascent of PRP, Britain’s largest housing practice, into this year’s AJ100 top 10 is all the more impressive given the UK housing crash. But PRP chairman Andy von Bradsky doesn’t seem surprised. ‘The fact we are in housing hasn’t made us any more vulnerable,’ he says. ‘If anything our roots in social housing make us better positioned than many of the more commercial-based practices.

‘We still have large-scale regeneration projects moving forward, such as at Haggerston Estate in Hackney, which recently secured funding,’ adds von Bradsky. ‘We have a number of PFI projects to upgrade existing housing stock moving forward, and we expect more public sector-led housing and regeneration projects to come on stream in the build-up to the general election.’

The planning application for the first social housing scheme at King’s Cross Railway Lands, designed by PRP, has also been brought forward, with the Homes and Communities Agency expected to inject funding.

Von Bradsky was appointed chairman of PRP in 2007, after 25 years at the practice. During that time, he had some notable successes, such as his leadership in the regeneration of Hulme Estate – a sink estate in Manchester – which has been hailed as a landmark project for the way the designers engaged with residents. ‘My specialism was looking at rundown estates in areas of urban blight and working with the residents,’ he says. ‘It’s since become a mainstream part of the practice’s work.’

Most recently, von Bradsky has overseen an expansion in PRP’s international portfolio, which includes a masterplan for the central district of Chongqing in China, and schemes in Abu Dhabi. For some time, Russia was a happy hunting ground, but not anymore. ‘The Russian market has stopped dead in its tracks,’ says von Bradsky. ‘Some of our overseas staff have come home, and we’ve managed to redeploy some, but not all.’

In the future, he expects the practice to win a lot of design work to improve the environmental performance of housing. PRP is already working on a ‘zero heating system’ for St Matthew’s Estate in Brixton, South London, in partnership with Bill Dunster of ZEDfactory.

‘The housing market remains a good opportunity because of underlying demand. Really interesting financial models will emerge and low-cost housing is returning as a major market,’ says von Bradsky. ‘Housing was the first sector into recession and it could be first out. It’s always a good bellwether,’ he adds. ‘It’s a good time to be involved to influence what’s happening.’ Damian Arnold

PRP was number 9 in the 2009 AJ100

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