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Lower income groups prefer traditional architecture, claims think tank

Trad architecture building beautiful

The poorest groups in society want traditional homes and are least likely to support adventurous design, according to a new survey

The poll is part of a report by right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange, which warns that housebuilders need to put more emphasis on traditional design to gain support for new housing among existing communities.

However, it found much greater support for cutting-edge design among the middle-class socioeconomic group (AB) than among the group made up of the lowest paid and non-workers (DE).

Former Labour mayor of Newham, Robin Wales, who co-authored the report along with conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, said: ‘Poorer communities in particular are keen to see more traditional design and style which is more likely to fit in with existing buildings.’

The report found that DEs are most likely to agree that architects ‘should build comfortable and beautiful homes’, and to disagree more strongly that ‘new buildings should be adventurous, different or seek to shock’.

31 per cent of ABs think building should be adventurous, compared to 17 per cent of DEs, the research found.

Tradarchitecture 1

Tradarchitecture 1

Views of all respondents

And when asked ’Which, in your opinion, has the right “look and feel” for an urban London setting?’, the Barbican centre came bottom on a list of nine choices, behind the Alexandra Road council estate in Camden and Broadway Malyan’s St George’s Wharf.

Across all socioeconomic groups, 85 per cent of respondents said new homes should either fit in or be identical to homes already in the area.

The report said: ‘We believe the noted aesthetic needs are more easily met through traditional forms of architecture.

‘The need to break with the past found in the Modernist tendency is difficult to square with the individual’s need for settlement.

Development is also more likely to be acceptable to residents when it fits in, as opposed to stands out.’

However, it said that this architectural debate was often squeezed out because ‘so many of the decisions made around how to use space or design a building are exclusively financial’.

The report recommended that every local planning authority should consult residents in preparing design and style guides for new development.

It also called for quick planning permissions for developments conforming to these guides and where locals have been consulted.

A new designation of ‘special areas of residential character’ should also be created to ensure new developments are in keeping with existing homes.

In a foreword to the report, communities secretary James Brokenshire says: ‘Policy Exchange highlights a major concern in this report: the design, style and quality of new homes.

‘We want to see local communities intimately engaged in helping to shape the future of the development in their area, feeding in their views on the design and style of new developments and helping local authorities create style guides and codes which developers can use to meet the needs of communities.’

‘New homes shouldn’t be seen as a burden’

He says that he ‘looked forward’ to discussing matters of housing design further in coming months.

Brokenshire, who replaced Sajid Javid as housing secretary in a cabinet reshuffle in April added: ’New homes shouldn’t be seen as a burden on communities but rather as strengthening communities’.



The Barbican - not a favourite among those polled



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Readers' comments (4)

  • Quite apart from Roger Scruton's ideological proclivities I could not see in the report the actual number of people surveyed and how they were selected and surveyed which makes the exercise meaningless.

    However the report is somewhat more nuanced than the article suggests such as the following passage:

    'The reality is that good design is often an afterthought. In too many cases, the design of new homes is led by the business model of the developer – to squeeze as many homes as possible into a certain floor area at the quickest timescale at the lowest rate that can be afforded. The role of the architect is neutered to fulfilling that model. Architectural values and the wider social agenda are simply dropped from the equation. Questions of modernism versus traditionalism, brutalism versus classicism are secondary to whether design has been prioritised at all. As the nation therefore gears towards building tens of thousands more homes per year, more architectural values are needed, not fewer.'

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  • John Kellett

    "‘Poorer communities in particular are keen to see more traditional design and style which is more likely to fit in with existing buildings.’" Really? Is that due to them being poor or due to the lower quality of education they receive as a result of poor parenting? Visual literacy is NOT taught in schools. The 'poor' are no longer encouraged to follow a career path in STEM subjects as it is deemed as expensive by those with no idea of the benefits. My state Grammar School education taught us how to see and learn, we were rarely taught at. As a result those from 'poor' backgrounds thrived. My wife teaches at a secondary school in a semi-rural town and they have pupils (or students as we are supposed to call them?) who have very little concept of a World of culture and professions as the nearest University is well over 20 miles away. There is not a School of Architecture in the County, nor in three neighbouring ones, so what chance have they got to even see and experience the benefits of real architecture. All they see is the publicity around the demolition of imaginary 'carbuncles'. Architectural 'outreach' rarely extends outside London :-)
    The attraction of the traditional is NOT due to income but an educational and intellectual ignorance encouraged by educationalists, "the media" and parents.

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  • anonymous

    "The attraction of the traditional is NOT due to income but an educational and intellectual ignorance encouraged by educationalists, "the media" and parents."

    That's rather snobbish isn't it John? Maybe they just don't like the shitty pseudo-modernist designs churned out by most architects.
    And maybe there's a psychological reason for that that architects are too in denial to even consider might exist.

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  • The issue is with the survey where responses to architectural style seem to have been based of a single photo. One of the images that was not popular was of a Span house in Blackheath. These are very popular with their residents because of the design of the houses and the layout of the developments with generous landscaping. I am not trying to say that this architectural approach is universally applicable but rather this is a stupid way of extrapolating the public's dislike for a whole type of architecture from one image.

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