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  • Writer's pictureRic Blenkharn

Anonymous Housing

Updated: May 10, 2021

Our towns, cities and villages have generally been shaped by topography and notably constructed of materials close to hand. Hence we see honey coloured stone in the Cotswolds and the use of slate and render in the Lake District. Such materials define the regional characteristics we come to enjoy when we travel the country. Yet when it comes to mass-market housing, we tend to see the same pseudo mock Georgian and mock Victorian housing-usually red brick, with concrete tiled roofs and small paned windows. Clearly this is a gross simplification, but illustrates the point that we have a currency of housing which is visually anonymous. It could in fact be anywhere and not specific to a location. We see numerous examples of housing laid out cheek by jowl, with a mere metre between dwellings, set around typical estate roads with 2m wide pavements, and little sense of shared public space.

What then is exciting to see, are the innovative design led developers taking an interest in place making, to create unique housing developments. The likes of Coda, established by architect David Cross, Citu and Urban Splash are all making major contributions to the market. It is great to see dynamic, vibrant new communities being created through thoughtful and innovative design. From my own lesser experience we recently worked on the redevelopment of a farmstead into 24 new homes, taking a lead from materials, form and fenestration that existed in the locale. The result was a distinctive development which has exceeded expectation in both visual but notably, commercial terms, for the project developer. As part of their drive for innovation and place making, Urban Splash has also been pioneering off site modular homes as part of their market contribution. A spokesperson from the company has highlighted their initiative,

Bramhall Blenkharn Leonard's recent development at Granary Fold, Cloughton for Mulgrave Properties. A redevelopment of a former farmstead into 24 new homes.

“We’ve been on our innovative, modular journey since 2012 – from our first prototype in 2016, to acquiring our own factory and vertically integrating production in 2018, to attracting inward investment from Japan and the Government in one of the industry’s biggest ever deals last year. We’re particularly committed to the notion of customer design and one of our highlights this year was launching our configurator, an online platform via which buyers can customise their own home, designing a space which works for them – be that the number of bedrooms, living areas, open plan areas and more. It has been really well received and we’ve enjoyed strong sales at New Islington in Manchester and Port Loop in Birmingham during the pandemic.

“Our efforts are backed up by our Live Well By Design proposition – this gives us a framework in which we can create great communities and effectively use the space surrounding our homes. Whether green transport options – the use of water, cycle routes and walkways – or overall better design, the proposition makes an environmentally-aware lifestyle all the more attainable for consumers.

“It goes without saying that creating proper neighbourhoods, and giving customers choice, have become all the more important this year. COVID’s had us all thinking about what home means and about how we might need different things from our homes now and in the future. Add to that the climate crisis, and we’ve absolutely reached a point where we must find a new approach to how we design and build our homes – the ubiquitous housing estate just won’t work anymore. Our built environment, specifically our homes, can and will shape the future of the planet and the way we choose to live”

In the quest to build, build, build, let us not fall into the trap of numbers for the sake of it, but truly create distinctive places to live, which take full account of context and the issues facing society today. It is a real opportunity to make a positive change for future generations.

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