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Housing winners show the positives but let's not get too carried away

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Judging the National Homebuilder Awards (pages 14-15) is a dubious privilege.Each of the three category winners, which have been published as AJ building studies, offers a particular cause for hope.

First there is the Terry Farrell-designed development of three luxury courtyard homes at Petersham in Surrey, winner of the Best House category (AJ 4.12.03). It has everything you would expect of awardwinning architecture: a big name architect, an extravagant price tag (the advertised guide price is £4 million a throw) and a one-off design.The surprise is the developer - Berkeley Homes; an indication that the most massive of mass house-builders is beginning to grasp the commercial worth of linking with top-end architects. Berkeley, which has just announced its intentions to pull out of 'traditional'house-building, has learnt that there are more subtle ways to add value than by ramping up the square footage or the number of luxury appliances.

Second, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, there is Feilden Clegg Bradley's Beaufort Court in south-west London, winner in the category for best social housing development (AJ 16.10.03). Innovative in terms of construction and as architecturally ambitious as any of the winning projects, it is one of several high-profile schemes commissioned by the Peabody Trust and proof positive that social housing is no longer the Cinderella of the industry. Third is Angel Waterside, a residential development in Islington designed by Pollard Thomas Edwards and deemed by the judges to be the best example of a development on a brownfield site (see pages 26-37).

Quirky and highly site-specific, the project was co-developed by the architect itself.

Taken together these three projects suggest that private housebuilders, housing associations and architects themselves are starting to challenge the misapprehension that, when it comes to housing, supply and construction can be treated as distinct from design. But the flagship projects which make the headlines give a misleadingly optimistic impression of the industry as a whole. You may have reservations about some of the winning projects - but you should have seen the ones which got away.

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