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Inspiring housing #5: Luke Tozer on Churchill Gardens

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[More Homes Better Homes] Pitman Tozer’s Luke Tozer tells the AJ why the government should learn from the ‘elegance and efficiency’ of Powell & Moya’s Churchill Gardens

Why do you like the scheme?

I admire its calm civility, elegance and efficiency.  

So much of recent housing adjacent to the Thames prizes its river view above all else, like an overeager fan at a One Direction concert, to the detriment of the city around it.  

Here there’s the opposite, an egalitarianism that gives each dwelling good daylight and sunlight, facing east-west, with blocks laid out perpendicular to the river.  

It is ‘mixed rise’ with heights from 3 to 11 storeys and with a variety of spaces so that despite its size (1,600 homes in 32 blocks), it manages to avoid the monotony found in many similar scale projects.

With an economy of means and repetitive use of simple elements it manages to create a harmonious whole with a simple palette of materials. It is robust enough to have endured yet visually delicate and its beauty is achieved through the elegance of the detailing.

What could government learn from it?

As the only realised element of the Abercrombie Plan, the government could reflect that a serious attempt to providing housing involves leadership, planning and commitment beyond a single political cycle.

A serious attempt to providing housing involves leadership, planning and commitment

Government policy and planning may have moved in different directions since the post war era and away from estates like Churchill Gardens, but what should be appreciated is that the complex ingredients of social policy, finance, infrastructure and town planning can come together to make good housing. It may be streets and squares rather than the modernist urbanism evident here but quality mid rise architecture, if applied on a wider scale, has the potential to help deliver housing numbers and create distinctive parts of the city and pleasant places for people to live. 

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