If the future of housing is huge blocks of flats, now is the moment to get our approach right

Matthew Lloyd_resize

The world is standing at a significant crossroads, says Matthew Lloyd

It is true to say that over the past 20 years there has been an enormous improvement in residential architecture – not least compared with the ambivalent outputs of the ‘90s and noughties. But the quality of these new buildings still varies, and this really matters. Uniquely, the design of our homes profoundly affects all of us almost every day.

Architects have varying levels of design influence in housing. Let us look for a moment at our most enduring and arguably successful house type, the ubiquitous “Wimpey home”, as people used to know it. From the sustainability side there is strong logic in “thickening out” our market towns, often with small-scale housing set within walking or cycling distance of the town centre, in turn filling up local schools and providing funding for better local services.

This type of development is continuously improving, with better build quality and materiality, less monotony and far greener public realms. They remain a highly popular house type all over the UK, offering security and a familiar lifestyle. It is true that the developer house type can be dull in purely architectural terms. From time immemorial the architectural establishment has rejected this context as in some way lowbrow – although this may be partly because housebuilders rarely employ independent architects. It would be good to see these two sides come closer together.

By contrast a more recent type of housing is office-to-residential “permitted development”.

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