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Houses should be truly modern, not pastiche

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When referring to past masshousing design it is easy to understand the prevalence of coding. Its use does not provide new ideas or concepts because the main aspects of design have already been decided. It is merely left to arrange the connections or bits and pieces to suit a variety of requirements, with economical or commercial ones taking priority over architectural ones, because the main design concepts have been decided already and are proven. You cannot code for a new or developing concept because its composition is yet to be decided.

Coding merely concentrates on the choice of already familiar concepts. The traditional dwelling with pitched roof and gables, which can be abutted in a variety of ways whether by traditional construction or prefabrication, is a prime example. Imagine, however, a simply designed dwelling with a curved roof and, say, a prominent southerly orientated glazed atrium. This would be almost impossible to code.

The debate therefore requires time for sensible discussion before fixing on a formula that precludes dwellings that may be able to fit tomorrow's requirements.

Houses must reflect some form of relationship with their surroundings, and this is invariably linked to a town or centre. New out-of-town housing developments in areas such as the Thames Corridors will be mainly in the hands of private finance.

Despite pressure from planning authorities and architects, developers are unlikely to make major architectural changes, unless of course they are confident the public approves first.

But are there any real signs that show tomorrow's housing should be different, or is it just architects' desire to do something new?

Pollution and sustainability can be tackled outside architecture, and lifestyles are not necessarily affected by house design. So what justification can there be to move away from today's vision of comfort? If communications are the centre of our lives, what is to stop them being incorporated into oldstyle houses? What are the benefits of modern-designed housing and how do we convince the community?

One problem at present is the fit of people into the existing housing stock. Thousands of existing dwellings remain unused, while many are underused, depriving families in particular of more usable accommodation. Flexible housing of all sizes would help the problem enormously, and towns possess millions of outdated and unused homes waiting to be modernised.

A purchaser or user is more likely to feel that a moderndesigned home can provide a way forward in an uncertain world if it is in tune with modern living, and provides the necessary links and communications with as many aspects as possible, and if it has the permanent feel of a traditional home.

In this case, innovative materials like sheeting in roofs can be utilised just as successfully as traditional slates or tiles.

Kitchens and bathrooms can be prefabricated in pods away from site. Layouts can become flexible and open planned for more personal use. Sustainable forms of heating and power can be utilised. The list could go on.

Rex Hawkesworth, Portsmouth

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