TV star Kevin McCloud is to build around 400 houses on two sites in Swindon, in the biggest test yet for the Grand Designs star's ideas about sustainable housing.
The developments will be the first projects for his new company HAB, and the design and development will be covered in a Channel 4 TV series.
McCloud, who is working with London-based architects DSDHA and Wright & Wright, told the AJ that he had considered a number of sites before plumping for the Wiltshire town.
One of the sites is at Gorse Hill, to the north of the town centre, in what Wright & Wright partner Sandy Wright described as 'Victorian back streets'. This area was allotments, but will now be given over to the residential development, featuring around 150 houses.
The other site is to the south, and is part of the Wichelstowe masterplan designed by Classicist John Simpson. This is on former farmland, and is part of a major extension to Swindon between the town and the M4 motorway. This will feature around 250 houses.
'Swindon is in the middle of Britain, and a microcosm of the country,' McCloud said. 'If you're Hoover or Mars and you want to try out a new product, you do it in Swindon.'
McCloud said that the architects will be asked to bring both structural and social innovations from Europe to the project.
'I have just come back from Germany, for example, looking at some very exciting modular systems. We are not adopting experimental ideas - in Europe this already happens.'
As part of the TV series, six local residents will be taken to Tübingen in Germany and Hammerby in Denmark to observe innovative housing projects in action.
McCloud will also approach Nationwide building society, whose headquarters are in Swindon, about providing new styles of mortgage that take into account the sustainability credentials of the project.
McCloud added that the project will try to resurrect suburbia as a place of architectural enquiry.
He said: 'It is suburbia - I love that word. Think of SPAN and Welwyn Garden City. Urban Splash has redefined the new build in an urban context, we want to try that with suburban typologies.'
He added, though, that HAB 'is unlikely to build many four-bedroom executive homes'.
HAB, which is collaborating with developer Footstep on the development, had announced earlier this year that it would work with David Chipperfield Architects, but McCloud now says that Chipperfield will design a later project.by Kieran Long