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ACCORDIA AIR Architect: Feilden Clegg Bradley, Maccreanor Lavington, Alison Brooks Architects Housebuilder: Countryside Properties (Accordia) It takes courage for a developer to implicitly trust an architect. Countryside Properties' faith in its architects shines through, which is why Accordia in Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge, was voted best of the best.

Feilden Clegg Bradley was appointed as masterplanner and architect for about two-thirds of the housing, which spans one-bedroom apartments to five-bedroom houses. To encourage diversity, the firm brought in two other practices - the Anglo-Dutch architectural firm Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks Architects - to create their own distinctive range of townhouses, affordable houses and apartments.

'With these names on board, ' commented the judges, 'you know you're in safe hands'.

Design has not been diluted during implementation, so creating an integrity that is sadly lacking in many housing developments. This sends a clear message to housebuilders - appoint good architects, trust them and, crucially, allow them to deliver their vision.

Countryside Properties has evidently taken risks, agreed the judges, and this is to be welcomed. Designers have broken out of the Neo-Georgian, Surrey vernacular mould to deliver clean and classy architecture. The argument that consumers are not ready for radically modern housing, the panel continued, is a crude misconception in the light of its crisp, contemporary aesthetics.

Accordia's blend of 382 townhouses, villas and apartments - including 114 affordable homes - are set within 3.2ha of open space, ensuring each property overlooks greenery. The harshness of what is, in effect, a large-scale housing project is softened by the preservation of natural landscape, notably 700 mature trees, and the juxtaposition of the historically important Hobsons Brook wildlife corridor. This attention to environmental detail was key to Accordia's award success in both this category and the best house of the three storeys or more class.

Despite site restrictions - Accordia is a high-density urban form - residents can move freely between skilfully designed mews courts, streets and squares. This is a refreshing and exciting project where people would genuinely want to live - a rare coup, said the judges.

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