Housing architects issue response to Building Better, Building Beautiful commission

Ninewells, Cambridge by PRP (1)

A group of leading housing architects has called on housebuilders to offer greater choice and diversity as part of rising to the government’s challenge of building new homes that people want to live in and that existing communities find acceptable.

Responding to the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission in a report entitled Distinctively Local, the four practices – HTA Design, Pollard Thomas Edwards, Proctor & Matthews and PRP – argue that boosting housing supply and building attractive homes requires new developments to be rooted in their local context.

The report says greater choice included offering a wider range of pre-designed homes and programmes of custom build, self-build and micro-development, while there should be a “balance between variety and uniformity”.

“Great places emerge from a creative response to context and diversity in the range of homes, not from a scattering of random styles,” the report said, while new homes should “adopt modern ways of making and digital crafts, while taking cues from our collective memory of ‘home’.”

The report’s authors said the 118-page document “responds directly and positively to the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission and housing minister Kit Malthouse’s recent challenge to architects to help achieve Britain’s ambitious housing targets by ‘building the homes the next generation deserves’.”

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The report calls for a greater spread of developers and design teams to work on large schemes “working towards a shared vision and within an agreed framework, not striving for ‘look at me’ difference out of fear of sameness”.

With a nod towards those who want a more classical approach – and perhaps eschew modernity – the report says places should be able to mature over time: “The old places we love have evolved over generations of growth and change. Don’t try and emulate that overnight.”

Citing a number of case studies, including the PRP-designed Ninewells scheme in Cambridge (pictured), the report’s authors said they had set out to “show in more detail ‘what good looks like’.”

Simon Bayliss, managing director of HTA Design, said that while the group welcomed the government’s focus on quality, successful housebuilding and placemaking “involves much more than a simple stylistic preference”.

The Building Better commission’s brief is to take views from a range of stakeholders but ultimately the government wants to see new housing developments “meet the needs and expectations of communities, making them more likely to be welcomed, rather than resisted, by existing communities”.

Bayliss said: “Designing and building 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.”