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Big name architects produce blueprint for housing developments


A consortium of four major architecture practices has published its blueprint for creating desirable, contextual housing developments in response to a plea by housing minister Kit Malthouse

HTA Design, Pollard Thomas Edwards, PRP and Proctor & Matthews have come together to produce the Distinctively Local report to guide housing design.

The report was published in the wake of a pledge by Malthouse that his Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission would ’urge developers to make room for beauty’.

Distinctively Local distils the practices’ message into 20 bullet points devised to ensure new neighbourhoods have a sense of place and promote health, happiness and, most of all, are contextual.

Case studies highlight 15 projects undertaken by the four firms themselves that ‘have been endorsed by numerous design award juries, and, more importantly, are popular with the people who live in and around them’.

In the introduction to the report, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Taylor of Goss Moor writes: ‘The UK has a great tradition of architects as visionary placemakers, not just façade-tweakers.

‘To believe we can’t deliver great places and wonderful homes is clearly wrong. The tradition of great homes and great placemaking has not been lost. The challenge is to rediscover the belief in doing it right more often, and understand the thinking that goes into this – and fire the imagination and will to do more.’

Nicholas Boys Smith, the founder of high-density, low-rise urban housing champions Create Streets, this week replaced Roger Scruton as chair of the Building Better, Building Beautiful commission.

Comments from the practices behind the report

HTA Design managing director Simon Bayliss ’We welcome the government’s focus on quality, but successful housebuilding and placemaking involves much more than a simple stylistic preference. Designing and building homes that respond to local context can be more thoughtful than architectural style alone.

Designing homes that respond to local context can be more thoughtful than architectural style alone

If we can look beyond this then we can start to foster a positive perception of new developments, which can in turn make the planning process a smoother journey. This will have a real impact in boosting housing supply.’

Pollard Thomas Edwards senior partner Andrew Beharrell ’How can we make great places, rooted in their context and offering choice to consumers, when there is growing pressure to adopt standardised production – and to double supply in a period of acute labour shortage and rising construction costs? Our report shows that it is possible to square these circles.’

Proctor & Matthews founding director Stephen Proctor ’Being distinctively local requires a thorough understanding of context, which defines a sense of place and creates a strong identity for new residential neighbourhoods. An exploration of local and regional characteristics such as distinct topography, vernacular building forms and the texture and grain of surrounding settlements, can assist in anchoring new developments within their specific contexts.’

PRP associate director Ben Williamson ’As we strive to deliver more homes, we must look beyond the number of individual dwellings built to the need of creating sustainable, connected and vibrant new communities. Community life exists outside the home in our streets, parks and open spaces. These spaces must be designed with care to ensure new homes can become part of sustainable new neighbourhoods that stand the test of time.’ 

Top 20 guidelines from the report

  • Understand the context
  • Interpret the context
  • Celebrate thresholds
  • Reinvent traditional building forms
  • Make it green and keep it green
  • Create connected neighbourhoods
  • Recapture the streets for people
  • Banish the clutter
  • Use open space as a community focus
  • Plan for the long-term to foster a sense of community
  • Create homes that feel like home
  • Maximise light and space
  • Design for flexible living
  • Embrace modernity while learning from the past
  • Embrace diversity
  • Seed communities with specialist housing
  • Balance variety and uniformity
  • Design places which can mature over time and manage them accordingly
  • Share a vision
  • Use design codes with caution 

Readers' comments (5)

  • This sounds like an excellent document - does anyone know how to get hold of a copy?

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  • Industry Professional


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  • They've forgotten something: however good their blueprint, in the hands of one of the volume house builders - and the current building control regime in this country - the end product can sadly all too easily be not just rubbish, but dangerous rubbish.

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  • The summary sounds great and the imagery is very pretty, but the actual document promotes low density suburban sprawl and private car ownership.
    I'd like to put this document, along with one on climate crisis and dying high streets in front of the minister for housing. What could the three issues possibly have in common?

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  • Copy available here

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