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Inspiring housing #2: Meredith Bowles on Accordia

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[More Homes Better Homes] Mole Architects’ Meredith Bowles tells the AJ why the Stirling Prize-winning Accordia scheme in Cambridge was so successful

Why do you like the scheme?

The site of the Accordia development in Cambridge has plenty going for it to make it likely to succeed.

Its proximity to the station and private schools make high sales values likely, and the site is a charmed combination of Edwardian suburb and bosky enclosure.

However the tight street structure, inventive house typologies, and restraint make it  deserving of its accolades. The overriding sense is of subservience to the whole; that more than anything the creation of a neighbourhood and a sense of continuity with familiar urban patterns is what has been sought.

But there is plenty of invention - the Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios-designed courtyard house type with multi-layered living and a flexible internal courtyard, the long house with a secondary mews garage, or Macreanor Lavington’s deck house all re-interpret traditional streets for modern life with cars and home-working.

What could government learn from it?

The development never would have happened without the intervention of Peter Studdert, then director of planning, who refused planning on previous schemes but guided the developers towards using better architects, with predictably better outcomes.

The scheme pushes at conventions, most notably in the treatment of roads - surfaces are broken, pavements are dispensed with, lanes are narrow. Shared gardens aren’t gated, but designed to feel private.

The council trusted the architects rather than relied on standard codes

The local authority trusted the architects rather than relied on standard codes, and the resulting neighbourhood feels a bit like a piece of town that always been around.

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