PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood. Daniel Hudson Burnham
Welcome to Prospects #01 — A New Kind of Suburbia
Metropolitan Workshop has committed to a programme of practice-based research aimed at capturing and communicating our practice expertise and reflecting on it with leading thinkers to promote innovation and enhance our creative endeavour.
04 — Why Suburbia, Now?
14 — Designing for Play
30 — Case Study: Oakfield
36 — A Modular Future
10 — The Homestead
We intend to select a major research theme biannually, driven by our practice imperatives and our collaborators. Like everything else we do as a studio, our research process will be tailored to the specific issues at hand and encourage collaboration. Each research project will begin with an issue of Prospects, a set of proposition papers that will constructively challenge our thinking, and coincide with an exhibition to encourage participation and planned events to capture debate within practice and refine our analysis. Our research projects will end with an addendum Prospects, which will capture new knowledge from participating experts, present new reflection and analysis on our past and current practice, and critically propose new ways of thinking that will enrich our future practice with collaborators. This copy of Prospects is special. It is the entry point to our first research project and our emerging research programme, and the first issue we have selected is A New Kind of Suburbia.
40 — Case Study: Campbell Park North
42 — Recalling Milton Keynes
46 — Exemplar Project: Abode
52 — Origins of the Semi-D
56 — Stories of Suburbia
Metropolitan Workshop with Dinah Bornat (Co-Director of ZCD Architects) Mark Latham (Regeneration Director, Urban Splash) Jo McCafferty (Director, Levitt Bernstein) Richard Partington (Director, Studio Partington) Stephen Proctor (Founding Director, Proctor and Matthews Architects) Madeleine Waller Toby Carr (Associate, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects) Designed by Smiling Wolf smilingwolf.co.uk
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Why Suburbia, now?
OUR EXHIBITION and event programme intend to initiate a conversation about the current character and future potential of the most taken-for-granted form of residential development: suburbia. This dialogue between designers, developers and policy makers will inform our long-term thinking on suburban place-making and offers an opportunity to reflect on our past and current practice. We hope this will enable us to better anticipate and devise design-led responses to the challenges and opportunities facing suburban residents. This paper aims to act as a primer for these conversations about suburbia during our planned exhibition and round table, as well as acting to initiate more spontaneous dialogue within the new and existing networks that our programme will stimulate.
Calling Suburbia, Home Given the apparently relentless pace of urbanisation, why focus our attention on innovation in suburban development now?
Metropolitan Workshop was founded to foster genuine collaboration. We are grateful to the collaborators who confirmed their contribution to our programme at the time of going to print, including: Gus Zogolovitch (Solid Space), David Birkbeck (Design for Homes), Peter Freeman (Argent), Sarah Wigglesworth (Sarah Wigglesworth Architects), Vincent Lacovara (Enfield London Borough Council), Chris Langdon (Engie), Graham Cherry (Countryside Properties), Stephen Proctor (Proctor Matthews Architects), Shelagh Grant (Housing Forum), Dinah Bornat (ZCD Architects), Richard Partington (Studio Partington Architects), Jo McCafferty (Levitt Bernstein Architects) and Mark Latham (Urban Splash). We are confident that collaboration with this diverse range of experts will enhance the rigour and creativity of our project.
Using a broader definition of suburbia, the Smith Institute identifies that between 75% and 80% of homes in England can be found in suburban places.2 Suburbanisation is an inseparable part of broader trends towards urbanisation. Although the challenges and
We invite others to join the conversation as our programme progresses, and our practice exhibition will be open to the public through the Clerkenwell Design Week (21 May 2019) and London Festival of Architecture (7 June 2019). The programme has enabled practitioners within Metropolitan Workshop to reflect on their formative and current experiences of suburbia and connect these experiences to their professional aspirations as designers. These accounts are presented in Stories of Suburbia, Suburbia Making Architects series (pp. 56-61) that can be found within the paper and demonstrate the diversity, social potential and challenges presented by suburbia. These accounts reflect our longterm commitment as a practice to reflecting on the suburban experience and will be complemented by contributions by expert practitioners involved in residential place-making as our programme progresses.
Quite simply, despite an increasing city centre population, most of the United Kingdom continues to live in suburban places. The Centre for Cities estimate that between 2001 and 2011 the suburban population of cities grew by 8 percent, and in 2015 the suburbs were home to 55 percent of total population of England and Wales. During this time those calling the city centre home accounted for a mere 1.6 percent of the population of England and Wales, and grew by 37 percent.1
Words by Neil Deely Co-founding Partner, Metropolitan Workshop with Dhruv Sookhoo
opportunities associated with housing that confront suburban residents are frequently overlooked by policy-makers relative to the attention paid to socio-economic and wellbeing issues affecting those living in urban centres. We feel that collective investment in improving the design, development and delivery processes that build and sustain suburban neighbourhoods has the potential to realise social value within residential places that most of the United Kingdom calls home. As architects and urban designers, we feel that focusing on new, innovative forms of suburban place-making offers us the best means of engaging with the intersecting challenges and potentials of the form of housing most common within the United Kingdom and increasingly across the Republic of Ireland.
Below: Somewhere in Suburbia - all too familiar... Opposite, top: Figure 2: Poster from Ian Nairn’s Subtopia, from June 1955. The striking similarity in the street scene from suburban roads in Southampton and Carlisle, some 400 miles apart. Opposite, middle: Figure 1a: Ebenezer Howard’s 3 magnets diagram which addressed the question ‘Where will the people go?’, with the choices ‘Town’, ‘Country’ or ‘Town-Country’. Opposite, bottom: Figure 1b: Diagram to illustrate the Garden City’s principle of correct city growth.
Deﬁning Suburbia Despite the term suburb being notoriously difficult to define, commentators recognise a shared suburban identity as being part of our national psyche.4 This shared suburban culture is perhaps best understood through our common understanding of suburban places as represented through our popular culture and stereotypes,5-6 and related common assumptions about what constitutes suburbia and what it offers its residents. The social character and meaning of the suburbs have altered throughout history, from describing the suburban estates of aristocratic families during the 1650s, to the weekend villas of the professional classes of the 1700s, to the prototypical middle-class commuter suburbs of the early 1800s and the emergence of speculatively developed detached and semi-detached properties.7 The suburban form that we are most familiar with developed during the interwar period and its proliferation represents an attempt to democratise lifestyles previously unavailable to the working classes. Suburbia offered the healthier lifestyle of the imagined countryside, in combination, with ready access to employment through the increasingly affordable private and public transport (Figure 1a&b). While the processes of urban industrialisation simulated early exploration of the suburban condition by the more affluent, it was the political and professional advocacy within the inter-war period that saw the greatest expansion of suburbanisation across the United Kingdom.
The socio-economic imperatives associated with post-war reconstruction, the expansion of social housing provision and access to mortgages fuelled speculative private sector housing, saw the suburban context increasingly become the predominant domestic experience whether meeting the aspirations of owner-occupiers or council tenants.8 Regardless of tenure the basic suburban form adopted was characterised by the predominance of detached and semidetached standardised house types offering self-containment and privacy, situated within individual back gardens for private leisure and front gardens and drives promoting public display.9 This plot-based configuration produced an open landscape in striking contrast to previous closed streetscapes associated with urban development.10 Lower densities within suburbs afforded designers, developers and decision-makers to prescribe private and communal open space alongside planned communal amenities (e.g. schools and health care facilities) as part of a social programme to address the social imperatives of period. At its most heroic and far-sighted suburbia has been brought into being new ways of living, often finding inspiration in the principles of the Garden City Movement, and later New Town Movement.11-13 Where successfully planned, designed and realised suburbs, like Milton Keynes, have offered more sustainable models for housing growth and provided residents with relative affordability within a proactively planned context for employment, health, education and leisure.14
This dialogue between designers, developers and policy makers will inform our long-term thinking on suburban place-making and offers an opportunity to reflect on our past and current practice.
Neil Deely — Co-founding Partner, Metropolitan Workshop
This section is intended for the man-in-the-street, rather than for architects and planners, to whom the points it makes may seem over simplified, or over obvious. One reason for Subtopia is that nobody has bothered to indicate its effects in terms that the man-in-the-street can see as relevant, and the recommendations below are therefore Suburbia Proliferates The trying importance of the phrased in terms an architect would use if he were to sum up the argument to a A familiar configuration of slowly-evolving suburban housing market standard house types set within private layman. gardens appears in nearly every context: in the north and south, on village boundaries and by industrial estates, squeezed into infill sites and expanding over greenfield land. While the quality of suburbia may vary substantially, a hallmark of the development model is its apparent adaptability to almost every context. It is this ubiquity and apparent power to render previous places contextless that is so perturbing to critics of speculative suburbia. Since Nairn coined the term subtopia in 1955 to describe poorly designed post-war suburban estates critics have consistently identified poor quality suburbia is associated with ineffective planning decision-making, adoption of routine highway layouts, places with limited social amenities, tendency towards false historicism, arbitrary repetitions of standardised house types, variable build quality, and neighbourhoods that promote individualism rather than communality among residents (Figure 2).15 For residents, suburban housing may be compromised, but represents the only means of realising a home.
In England and Wales, the semi and detached properties that we tend to associate with suburban development contribute around 29% and 22.5% of existing homes. In 2017, 160,606 new homes were registered with the NHBC, with semi and detached properties accounting for 26% and 30% of the registrations respectively.3 However house builders frequently produce a narrowly targeted product focusing on early middle-aged parents. Other sectors of the market are growing and offering new opportunities: 1. ‘Smaller householders who want a sociable lifestyle’ First-time buyers New families Co-living renting
2. Later-living Demand for Later Living homes is not met and growing. On average another 220,000 households for those aged over 65 are added to demand every year.
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Suburban products must improve Despite a consumer preference for lower density living, the past design performance of suburban developments has been mixed relative to other forms of development. For example, in 2006, CABE undertook a systematic national housing audit to assess the quality of newly constructed houses in the UK. Building for Life criteria (2005) provided a means of assessment regardless of whether the scheme was developed in urban, suburban or rural contexts. CABE’s audit of the East and West Midlands and South West revealed that over half of new-build developments audited in the East Midlands were judged to be poor, with no scheme rated ‘good’ and only one ‘very good’. In the West Midlands, only 15% of schemes were rated ‘good’ or ‘very good’, with almost half rated ‘poor’ (Figure 3).16 At the end of CABE’s national audit only 4% of suburban projects were considered ‘good’, none were ‘very good’, and the lower density scheme type had the highest proportion of ‘poor’ schemes at 43%.
Above: The homestead at Campbell Park North, Milton Keynes
Urban schemes outperformed suburban projects due to provision of local services and public transport, but also over factors well within the remit of the development team, such as producing a distinctive architectural character, creating homes with well proportioned interiors and situating homes in site specific, well considered landscaping. CABE also identified that urban sites were likely to provide design teams with increased constraints, such as a need to respond to existing, rectilinear street patterns and avoiding inefficient, curved road layouts associated with suburbia. Urban contexts were also perceived to provide less opportunity for the use of poorly conceived generic house types, because site constraints necessitated the use specific, architect designed solutions.
Figure 3: Suburban, lower density schemes are outperformed by urban schemes across the country (CABE 2006).
Very Good Good
Rural 0% 0% 71% 29%
Very Good Good Average Poor
Suburban 0% Very Good 4% Good 52% Average 43% Poor
Urban 8% 8% 46% 38%
Very Good Good Average Poor
Gauging the Quality of Suburbia While developers may incrementally develop powerful, working insights into what consumers within local markets prefer or will accept based on experience, a limited and fragmented evidence-based approach makes understanding current consumers perspectives on the design quality and building quality of suburban development at the national level difficult to gauge. Audits by experts on the pass performance of new suburban developments relative to other forms of development across a range of design criteria supports the position that poor quality suburban development is endemic .
twice as many consumers preferred older properties (47%) than new build homes (21%). Where new build is a preference the presence of a warranty to cover potential construction issues is highly valued, as is the perception of relative energy efficiency. Although consumer preference for older or newer properties are complex, Home Owners Alliance assert consumer perspective for older homes relates to the perspective among buyers that new homes lack character, are smaller and poorly constructed.18 These finding are borne out by regular media coverage questioning the size, robustness and value of the standard suburban product conflated with issues of aesthetics and taste.
At a fundamental level, the build quality of housing produced by speculative homebuilders is under increasing scrutiny by politicians, policy-makers and consumer groups. While homebuilders regularly report favourable, improving results through the annual HBF and NHBC National New Home Customer Satisfaction Survey, this is in contrast with the perspectives of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment identified unacceptable levels of reported defects reported for new build properties 1n 2015.17 Likewise, The Home Owners Alliance identified that the quality of homes was increasingly a concern for consumers, with those saying poor quality was a serious concern increasing from 52% to 57% between 2014 and 2018. In 2017, the same consumer group identified more than
While consumer dissatisfaction relating to more qualitative issues of proposed and built projects are difficult to capture with certainty, what is clear from the mass consumption of architecture lifestyle television programmes and press, is that there is an interest in alternative, contemporary forms of housing. It would be reasonable to assume that the consumers of design-fuelled lifestyle media are current or future housing consumers with increased awareness of the potential of residential development yet confronted with the same, standardised products. Evidence of an untapped demand for a new response to housing market is perhaps best demonstrated by the successful sales rates and profitability of the few forward-looking developers currently driving quality and innovation within suburban development.
The Social Potential of Suburbia. Suburbia emerged from a radical social agenda, the forms of suburban development we are most familiar with today are nearly dislocated from the most progressive social aspirations and professional intent of early advocates of the suburban form. Our mainstream suburban product that constitutes most of new build housing under construction in the United Kingdom, and much existing housing stock, is now most readily associated with unimaginative, speculative development of poor design, compromised build quality and without regard for long-term maintenance. Despite this apparent banality of much suburban development and the pervasive, long-standing anti-suburbanism of urban-orientated intellectuals, the suburbs have been chosen and benefited successive generations from very different classes and ethnic groups.19 While suburbia does not guarantee social equality and affordability, the adaptability of the typology appears to offer a commonly accepted basis for a range of lifestyles that the city and countryside perhaps may not. The popularity and apparent flexibility of the semi-detached house, the typology most associated with suburbia, testifies in no small part to the long-term appeal and potential adaptability of suburban homes. 20 The suburban form that developed and proliferated in the interwar period may have done much to meet the challenges and opportunities confronting past generations. But how are these suburban places serving their residents? The apparent sameness of suburban developments has potential to mask differences between the potential of the basic suburban form to offer radically different opportunities for its residents based on a range of associated socio-economic factors and physical characteristics. So, while the suburban format is quintessentially part of the national character, commonly held stereotypes about the sameness of suburban life tend to obscure the rich cultural differences between suburban places, and their relative potential to enrich our lives.21 The basic suburban format that provides a home through standardised house types situated within a garden for private leisure, offers the concept of home most familiar to population at large, but has very different social potentials depending on its relationship to other everyday aspects of domestic life (e.g. affordable transport enabling access to education and employment, opportunities for communal activities for health and wellbeing)22. Fundamentally, the same suburban model of development that has remained largely unchanged since its post-war proliferation, has potential to create communities that thrive or struggle based on the social and economic opportunities they afford23. For many suburbia is synonymous with the promise of home ownership, associated forms of consumerism and an improving, independent quality of life regardless of tenure. However, in many metropolitan suburbs such as London, Birmingham and
Manchester, there is evidence of suburban decline linked to reducing opportunities for employment, reduced provision for public housing and welfare, and reduced housing affordability.24 This is part of a trend that is increasingly seeing growing social inequality between urban centres and their suburbs. The marginalisation of suburban residents and places calls for a suburban renaissance by reconnecting our suburbs to the opportunities of urban centres and rural communities in a more sustainable way. 25 While the work of architects alone cannot overcome these challenges, we feel that linking the design process and its outcomes more proactively to planning, development, construction and management processes that create and maintain our suburban places may provide a means of re-injecting some of the social purpose that originally drove previous generations of placemakers to promote suburbia in the first place. Interwar suburbia was designed to accommodate and promote the idea of the nuclear family and reflect early 20th century lifestyles. The communities it served were not particularly mixed by household or tenure when home ownership was the ambition for the rising middle classes. Now, with household sizes shrinking and with a growing ageing population (Figure 4), models of suburban living that more accurately reflect society, as it is today, must be discovered.
Figure 4; The UK population is ageing – around 18.2% were 65 or older at mid-2017, compared with 15.9% in 2007. This percentage is projected to grow to 20.7% by 2027. (ONS)
The Architect in Suburbia How should architects support their clients to anticipate and respond to the needs and aspirations of housing consumers in suburban housing? It may seem obvious, but being present within the development process that realises suburban developments is key. A defining characteristic of mass market housing is the absence of the architect in the design, development and delivery of suburban neighbourhoods and the house types that form the basis of the developers’ offer to their customers.26 While critics of homebuilders identify the absence of directly employed architects within their organizational structures as a cause of poor design quality, there is evidence for the withdrawal of architects from speculative, mainstream mass suburban housing at the professional level during the interwar period. Suburbia represents a challenge for architects, requiring skills and attributes to work within a development process that emphasises design and build quality through intelligent standardisation and choice, rather than restricted production for one off solutions. Metropolitan Workshop counts itself among the architect’s practices working today with the specialist housing expertise and values to support clients realize speculative residential projects capable of extending their offer within existing markets and creating new markets by successfully anticipating consumers demands. A New Kind of Suburbia represents an investment by our practice in the exploration of new models of suburbia by reflecting on our models of thought, their translation into built projects within the suburban context and entering into a critical discussion about how we can support developer-clients, residents and stakeholders to adapt the existing model of suburban development to address emerging issues in the housing market through better design and construction.
1. Elli Thomas, Ilona Serwicka and Paul Swinney, Urban demographics Why people live where they do. (London: Centre for Cities, 2015). 2. Paul Hackett, Housing and Growth in Suburbia (London: Smith Institute, 2009). 3. NHBC., New Home Statistics Annual Review 2017 (NHBC: London, 2017). 4. Peter Hall, ‘Introduction’, in Housing and Growth in Suburbia, ed. by Paul Hackett, Housing and Growth in Suburbia (London: Smith Institute, 2009), pp.3-6. 5. Rupa Huq, Making Sense of Suburbia through Popular Culture (London: Bloomsbury, 2013). 6. Vesna Goldsworthy, ‘Suburban identity’, in Housing and Growth in Suburbia, ed. by Paul Hackett, Housing and Growth in Suburbia (London: Smith Institute, 2009), pp.7-14. 7. J.W.R Whitehand and C.M.H. Carr, Twentieth-Century Suburbs: A Morphological Approach (London: Routledge, 2001). 8. Robert Stern, David Fishman and Jacob Tilove, Paradise Planned: the Garden Suburb and the Modern City (New York: The Monacelli Press, 2013). 9. Alison Ravetz and Richard Turkington, The Place of Home: English Domestic Environments, 1914-2000 (London: E&FN Spon, 1995). 10. J.W.R Whitehand and C.M.H. Carr., p1. 11. Stephen Ward, The Peaceful Path: Building Garden 12. Cities and New Towns, (Hatfield, Hertfordshire: University of Hertfordshire Press, 2016). 12. Sarah Rutherford, Garden Cities (London: Shire Publications, 2014). 13. Kate Henderson, Katy Lock and Hugh Ellis, The Art of Building a Garden City: Designing New Communities for the 21st Century (London: RIBA Publishing, 2017). 14. Anthony Alexander, Britain’s New Towns: Garden Cities to Sustainable Communities (London, Routledge, 2009). 15. Ian Nairn, Outrage (London: Architectural Press, 1956). 16. Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. Housing Audit. (2011) <https://webarchive. nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110118104336/http://www.cabe. org.uk/housing/audit> [accessed: February 2019, archived content]. 17. All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, More Homes, Fewer Complaints: Report from the Commission of Inquiry into the quality and workmanship of new housing in England (London: APPG for Excellence in the Built Environment/ Construction Industry Council, 2016). 18. Home Owners Alliance, The Homeowner Survey 2015: Issues, trends and how we feel about our homes (London: Home Owners Alliance, 2015). 19. Mark Clapson, ‘The suburban aspiration in England since 1919’., Contemporary British History, 14(1), (2000), 151-173. 20. Neil Deely, ‘Semi-detached’., in The Housing Design Handbook: A Guide to Good Practice ed. by David Levitt and Jo McCafferty (London: Routledge, 2018). 21. Goldsworthy, pp.8-9. 22. Hackett. 23. Yolande Barnes, ‘Suburban property markets’, in Housing and Growth in Suburbia, ed. by Paul Hackett, Housing and Growth in Suburbia (London: Smith Institute, 2009), pp.37-44. 24. Paul Hunter, Urban towards a suburban renaissance: an agenda for our city suburbs (London: Smith Institute, 2016). 25. Ben Kochan, Achieving a Suburban Renaissance: the policy challenges (London: TCPA/ Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2007). 26. Colin Davies, The Prefabricated Home (London: Reaktion Books, 2005) .
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
The Homestead The homestead creates a high quality suburban housing development, by offering shared amenity, enabling the adoption of the latest construction approaches and allowing more flexibility to suit local communities. Metropolitan Workshop’s approach to suburbia aims to foster greater social opportunities for new residents and strengthen the sense of identity of existing neighbourhoods, while achieving considerably greater density than the traditional suburban development models.
THERE IS A PERFECT STORM in UK housing: limited supply, high prices, low wages. The percentage of 25-34 year-olds who own a home has fallen from 60% to 38% between 1981 and 20161. The prospect of home ownership for today’s younger generation is bleak. Understandably this has given rise to alternative forms of household tenure, most notably private rent which as has risen from 25% in 2006 to 47% by 2016 (Office for National Statistics). The UK population is ageing – around 18.2% were 65 or older at mid-2017, compared with 15.9% in 2007. This percentage is projected to grow to 20.7% by 20272. A standard suburban house designed for the nuclear family is unsuited to the requirements of later living. Homes must be adaptable to ensure people can live independently, happily and for longer in a familiar environment. Conventional suburban layouts and tenure, favoured by housebuilders, responding to outdated planning policy, maximise private space within a mix of home types skewed in favour of large detached and semidetached family homes. These are often arranged in a confusing and inefficient street pattern. Speculative private developments are commonly stand-alone and have poor connection to context and existing neighbourhood centres. As a result the car and highway dominate the street scene with a disproportionate amount of the site covered in hard surfaces. Our ideas for a new suburbia challenge that approach. We want to see a new housing
model that is more efficient and flexible, with a dramatic improvement in the quality of public realm. Our objective is to provide, through design, places with real opportunities for residents to develop a strong sense of belonging and neighbourhood; creating stable communities that promote a greater sense of shared ethos and mutual identity. A different, desirable alternative that will re-balance the generational divide in home-ownership and foster a better sense of community stewardship: a new sustainable and adaptable model for suburbia that supports more people. We have designed, as the basic building block of our new suburbia, the homestead. This provides a flexible framework, a unit of development, like a small city block, which provides a variety of homes in various forms arranged around a shared green space with smaller squares, courts and yards to control privacy and offer opportunities for interaction. Cars are pushed to the periphery of the homestead with streets that have shared surfaces prioritising pedestrians and accessibility. The homestead allows greater density (up to 75 homes per hectare or with relaxed parking provision over 100 dph) compared to traditional suburban housing (around 20 homes per hectare normally) whilst still providing generous communal amenity set within a clear grid that can be tessellated changed and adapted - to respond to varying sites. And within a phased development, the homestead can also be made to respond to changing market trends, mix and tenure demands by adapting individual components.
Twentieth Century suburbia was about home ownership, the nuclear family, house with garden, and car ownership Twenty-first Century suburbia is experiencing a demographic shift to many smaller households who are renting, cannot afford to live centrally, but seek an exciting sociable lifestyle – our ideas explore what a new offer could be for them.
David Prichard — Metropolitan Workshop
1. ONS. UK Private Rented Sector: 2018 (London: Office of National Statistics, 2019). 2. ONS. Overview of the UK population: November 2018 (London: Office of National Statistics, 2018), p.2. Right: Shared garden within the Engie Homestead
A settlement is simply a means by which men or women may share themselves with their neighbours.
Henrietta Barnett, 1898 â€” English social reformer, educationist, and author. Worked to establish the model Hampstead Garden Suburb in the early 20th century.
PROSPECTS #01 â€” A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Principles The homestead provides a residential framework that can be successfully applied to different site contexts and a range of client briefs to provide greater densities within an ethos that strives for higher quality living through design-led development processes.
Character The character of our schemes develop from the unique nature of the existing context. Our proposals aim to enrich the distinctiveness of existing landscapes, the structure of existing building structures and enhance the setting of neighbouring buildings. Layouts should respond to historic views and assets. Use of local materials with a constrained palette will reinforce local identify. Development should engage with existing green and blue infrastructure, maintaining mature trees and existing waterways wherever possible. Variety A diverse range of homes for every type of resident that can be easily adapted or to respond to growing families or changing needs. A variety of sizes and living formats that allow an innovative tenure mix which means more quality homes for all ages and pockets. Buildings that are exciting and vibrant places to live in with generous shared landscape and public realm that promotes healthier and more cohesive communities. A fully inclusive environment that supports all ages â€“ a neighbourhood for long-term living. Variety in building types and architectural design providing more diverse and characterful streets. Neighbourly New neighbourhoods that maintain an appropriate scale to ensure residents take ownership of shared amenity and form close-knit communities that last. Neighbourhoods that meet local housing demand and create the distinctive places that homeowners seek.
Opportunities for chance encounters, such as pairing of front doors and shared landscapes and spaces to support summer fetes and street parties, for example, at all scales together creating more sociable neighbours and communities. Ownership If residents feel engaged with their environment, they are more likely to take ownership of it. Increased variety in tenure beyond traditional private ownership accentuates a sense of ownership, maintaining longer term tenants who are invested in their home and community. A programme of regular interactive amenity, such as growing spaces and hobby pavilions, is one way to achieve this, as well as opportunities for future residents to personalise homes from simple gestures like offering choice of front door colours and provision of window planter boxes, to more substantial customisation with the introduction of modular build systems allowing greater choice in regards to layouts, additions and cladding (all options still working with an agreed design code). Prioritised public realm and integrated landscape Generous shared landscape and public realm will support more cohesive communities supporting all ages. A neighbourhood for long-term living encouraging healthy lifestyles with easy access to local services and facilities, plentiful green amenity for gardening and growing food. Shared spaces that will be overlooked, offering children the freedom to play and explore their environment. A legible street pattern that prioritises the pedestrian and cyclist with defined and direct routes to local neighbourhood centres and services will promote more active lifestyles.
Within a larger development made up of several Homesteads, each can have its own landscape character and amenity use, from formal gardens to meadows to productive allotments and the overall landscape habitat can accommodate more structured recreational amenity such as playgrounds for children to more incidental landscape elements such as dwell space for the elderly. All promoting the cross-fertilisation of homestead residents and inclusion of all demographics. Sustainable and connected communities Thoughtful integration of renewable energy and smart technology in the home and site-wide is essential to optimise energy use. Using the latest energy technology will create healthier places to live and more responsible developments that help sustain our environment. Public transport infrastructure will be designed so connections to bus stops or train stations are easily accessible. In most cases the introduction of sustainable infrastructure can have a positive impact within wider landscape proposals, adding to the aesthetic and environmental value of a place. For example integrating urban drainage into the landscape can also provide destinations for social activities and interaction. Innovation Modern methods of construction, where appropriate, can allow a higher quality of home to be built in a more time efficient and cost effective way. Opportunities for off-site manufacture can ensure a more sustainable construction process, requiring less heavy machinery energy and within in a controlled and process led factory environment create
less wastage with less labour required. With a well-planned delivery programme construction sites can be smaller and create less disruption to nearby residents. Selection of appropriate materials facilitated by modern build systems and inclusion of renewable and smart technology within homes will reduce both there carbon footprint and running costs. The creation of a new modern suburban aesthetic, with greater flexibility in layout and future adaptability, impossible to achieve on a traditional building site, will appeal to the next generation of pioneering suburban residents. Fit for purpose Within the homestead the infrastructure needs to accommodate the day-to-day and infrequent activity of the street: delivery drivers dropping off parcels; taxi drivers picking up and dropping off and access for emergency service vehicles through the day, evening and night. Parking must work to minimise visible car presence and traffic, with most parking pushed to the edge of the homestead beside its surrounding primary roads. Waste storage provision must be easily accessed but not impact on the street scene. Cycle storage should encourage use. Each home will have its own cycle storage that is accessible and safe.
Four environments: 1. Parking and transport 2. Green Streets 3. Communal gardens and yards 4. Private patios
3 4 2
Above: The Engie Homestead
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Designing for Play
Words by Dinah Bornat Co-Director of ZCD Architects
Play is a fundamental aspect of a healthy society; it’s what children do naturally as their ‘default activity’1 and has other wider social benefits. Play is defined as ‘freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated’, which essentially means that it should happen when, where and how a child chooses and that it should be neither organised for them nor supervised by others.
SINCE CHILDREN spend most of their spare time at home, the spaces in their local neighbourhood are the most crucial for supporting play. For a number of varied and complex reasons, however, the numbers of children able to play outside has dropped significantly over the last generation.2 In Harrow, for example, of those that use the borough’s play spaces, only a quarter visit at least every two weeks and provision for teenage children is seen as poor.3 The consequences are huge; from rising obesity levels to child development issues such as mental health and other physical and social problems. When looked at from a positive point of view, providing a built environment that gives children the opportunity, and indeed the right, to play safely has many potentially positive outcomes. Understanding how children play Extended observation is the key to understanding how children and the rest of the community use space and forms the basis of our research into ten recently completed housing estates in England.4 This and previous observational work,5 suggests that a network of car-free, shared spaces that are well overlooked and accessible from dwellings create the best condition for social use of space and the safest environment for children of all ages to play and get about safely. Play is also a social activity; what Jan Gehl calls a ‘self reinforcing process’6; in other words children attract other children who attract other children. Documenting the diversity of activities We’ve worked with the photographer Madeleine Waller to illustrate what is possible when play happens close to home. Waller’s photographs, taken over the period of one year, document the rich variety of activities that can take place in a successfully planned neighbourhood; children playing quiet
imaginary games, football and cycling, parents engaging in incidental conversations, organised parties, barbecues and firework displays. Our research has found that providing for unsupervised play is the key to creating successful places. We have found that places which have more children playing outside independently tend to be used more by other members of the community, leading us to suggest that children are the generators of community life. Play begins close to home Current play strategies apply a rather crude, tick box approach, asking for dedicated play spaces within maximum walking distances from front doors; 100m for under 5s and 400m for 5 to 12s. More often this will require adult accompaniment and supervision, which tends to reduces children’s playtime and also restricts their ability to take calculated risk, itself an essential part of healthy play. Play needs to begin close to home, in order for children to get to know their own neighbourhood: When children are very young they test independence and will want to play outside, but within sight and sound of their parent or carer. For example on their doorstep or in shared communal space. As they grow older and gain confidence they will want to be able to visit friends in the same street or close by. Young people should be able to access spaces further away, such as open spaces and recreational facilities. Harrow has an abundance of green open spaces for all age groups to enjoy, although mainly concentrated in the north east of the borough. Older children and young people should grow up finding these spaces easy to visit so that they are well used and loved throughout their lifetimes.
This extract was originally published within Harrow Better Design (2017). Dinah Bornat is co-director of ZCD Architects. The practice is passionate about socially inclusive architecture and urban design and has published ‘Housing design for community life’ in 2016 and ‘Neighbourhood design, working with children towards a child friendly city’ in 2019. Both use observational techniques to better understand how children use space. Neighbourhood design is a more detailed study, which involved local children and has led to the Mayor of Hackney’s manifesto commitment to becoming a child friendly borough. ZCD Architects are delivering quality engagement programmes on strategic and major projects, that aim to bridge the gap between child and young people’s lived experience and built environment objectives. Dinah is an expert on child friendly cities, a Mayor’s Design Advocate for the Mayor of London, a design review panel member of Harrow and Hounslow Councils and works with a number of local authorities across the country.
1. Voce, A. (2015) “Policy for Play” London: Policy Press 2. Shaw, B., Bicket, M., Elliott, B., Fagan-Watson, B., & Mocca, E (2015) “Childrens Independent Mobility: an international comparison and recommendations for action”. London: Policy Studies Institute. Hifiman, M., Adams, J, & Whitelegg, J, (1990) “One False Move”. London: Policy Studies Institute. 3. London Borough of Harrow “Open Space, Sport & Recreation Study” (2011) 4. “Bornat, 0(2016) “Housing Design for Community Life” London: ZCD Architects 5. Biddulph, M (2011) “The impact of innovative designs on activity in residential streets” School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University. Wheway A,, and Millward, A,, (1997) “Childs Play: Facilitating play on housing estates” The Joseph Rowntree Association and Chartered Institute of Housing. 6. Gehl, J (2011). “Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space”
The characteristics of the environment where we live influence our lifestyles and daily experiences, contributing significantly to our health and wellbeing. Low-density living and a lack of good community facilities are associated with increased social isolation and a lack of appealing green space reduces levels of physical activity and mental wellbeing.
NHS Healthy New Towns —
Opposite: Photographic series capturing children at play within the Crown Estate, London 2018. Photography by Madeleine Waller www.madeleinewaller.com
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Origins Metropolitan Workshop has developed the homestead concept over several years. Its application to various sites provides opportunities to establish greater density, shared amenity, innovative homes types, mix and tenure, with each site seen as an opportunity to establish new flexibility and features that are transferable to the next.
THE HOMESTEAD originates from our winning entry to the RIBA/Wates Private Rented Sector competition in 2013. Our submission, developed with Sir Richard MacCormac, addressed current housing issues with a simple concept that reconfigured a suburban PRS (Private Rented Sector) development to provide a range of homes in a denser layout using a flexible dwelling typology. Our alternative approach adopted a more rational, orthogonal layout based on a new suburban block – the homestead. The homestead allowed us to design higher quality suburban housing developments that deliver improved efficiency and considerably greater densities and shared amenity compared to traditional house builder layouts. Whilst conventional suburbia maximises private space, our design provided space in radically different ways: retail and workspaces to link with neighbouring communities, encouraging social inclusion; communal gardens, allotments and orchards, for recreation and biodiversity; and the neighbourhood park, a twenty-first century village green promoting sharing and healthy lifestyles, recreation, sculpture trails, swales and ponds, crèche, allotments. Traditional streets were replaced by landscaped courts – routes separated by a shared garden, accommodating offstreet parking at its edges, with orchards and opportunities for play and communal
growing. These made attractive addresses lending a distinct identity to each homestead and act as a gateway to surrounding countryside with wildlife and jogging trails. The homestead has formed the basis of our thinking for several distinct projects in a variety of contexts in the past five years, demonstrating the concept’s flexibility. At Mayfields (pp.20-21), a proposal for a new market town in rural Sussex, the structure of the historic Wealden farmsteads - the organisation of the farmhouse and outbuildings around a central yard with peripheral working fields - informed the development of the Wealden homestead. This appropriated the traditional layout and scale of buildings and hierarchy of spaces and applied it to a residential use, employing an architectural language and palette of materials sympathetic to the Wealden vernacular, creating new, inclusive communities embedded in the rural context. At Oakfield in Swindon (pp.28-29) - the first housing project to be delivered by Nationwide Building Society – we have used the homestead concept, creating a collegial layout of new interchangeable home types arranged around a neighbourhood park, that allow greater variety in mix and tenure, and accommodate the requirements of all generations - from singles, first-time buyers, families and later living.
Right: The homestead for Wates/RIBA Ideas for the Private Rented Sector competition. Opposite: Sequence of shared landscapes within the Wates/RIBA Ideas Homestead.
Suburban Ideal In 2013, we collaborated with the late Sir Richard MacCormac to channel our housing research to create a winning entry to the Wates/RIBA Ideas for the Private Rented Sector competition.
20TH CENTURY suburbia was about the car, a garden and a nuclear family. 21st Century suburbia must be about accommodating the shift to many smaller households who are obliged to rent, who cannot afford, or do not wish to live centrally, but who want an exciting, sociable urban lifestyle. Our concept reconfigured suburban PRS development to provide a range of homes in a denser layout using a flexible home typology arranged in a new suburban unit known as the homestead. The efficiency of our concept delivers more amenity space compared to conventional schemes, to foster a closer-knit community.
An exemplary piece of research and enquiry providing a model scheme that masters density shifts, a range of flexible unit types and a balance of public, shared and private spaces to produce a scheme with a convincing sense of place. Development phasing and flexible investment models added depth to a proposal for a new suburban dream only available be renting.
Simon Allford â€” RIBA Adviser, on behalf of the Judging Panel
PROSPECTS #01 â€” A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
The Government attaches a great deal of importance to improving the design of homes and neighbourhoods. A core part of the mission is the commitment of both the Government and the Royal Institute of British Architects to building a bigger and better Private Rented Sector to help the country meet its housing needs and to raise standards in the sector. I believe these awards are an invaluable way of recognising and rewarding projects that set the standard for great architecture all across the country.
Kris Hopkins â€” Minister for Housing
The Homestead Layout – Improving Efficiency Traditional volume house builder layouts seek to maximise private space and off-road parking, often in the form of car courts. They also promote larger detached and semi-detached family homes arranged around curved streets.
Density 47dph 470 homes
25dph 250 homes
53dph 530 homes
Such layouts are confusing to navigate and ignore the housing needs of the community they serve. This approach is inflexible, creates inefficiency and an unnecessarily high proportion of site devoted to hard surface. By using terraces arranged orthogonally and promoting on-street parking, our Homestead based layouts change the breakdown of land-take in favour of promoting shared open space, increasing it from 18% to 44%. The improved efficiency enables us to achieve greater densities and offer more communal open space without compromising overlooking distances. Public Realm – Shared Landscapes The Homestead terraces front landscaped gardens which can connect to green belt edges. Landscaped gardens create attractive addresses lending a distinct identity to each Homestead, with orchards and opportunities for play and communal growing. These ‘green fingers’ lead to and bring in the surrounding countryside with wildlife and jogging trails.
16% – 2P1B Apts 13% – 4P3B Houses
37% – 6P3B Houses 34% – 5P4B Houses
56% – 2P1B Apts 19% – 4P2B Houses 15% – 4P3B Houses
5% – 6P3B Houses 5% – 5P4B Houses
53% – 2P1B Apts 22% – 4P2B Houses 15% – 4P3B Houses
Collegial Courts Hard-landscaped courts create a focal point at one end of the Homestead, overlooked by adjacent homes. Smaller householder, old or young, will appreciate opportunities to socialise, so there is an emphasis on shared entries.
T1 Multi-Gen House 12P8B (240m2)
T2 3 Houses 2x 6P3B (100m2) 1x 4P2B (76m2)
T4 6 Apts 2x 2P1B (50m2) 4x 1P1B (38m2)
T-House Flexibility – Repetition, Efficiency & Variety This idea offers opportunity to flex the mix of occupancies and density within the same two-storey envelopes – ‘dial-a-density’ – ensuring any scheme can be attuned to local need and market demand at the time of delivery, without changing the layout or massing. Houses can be easily adapted to maisonettes which means tenants can move within the scheme maintaining community bonds, reducing voids, redecoration costs and enhancing rental income.
The T-shaped envelope can provide four 1-bed flats plus one 2-bed house; or six 1-bed maisonettes; or two 3-bed houses and on 2-bed house; or one multi-generational home.
Communal Yards These are the most intimate spaces, used by clusters of homes. Private back gardens overlook the communal yard which provide safe play and a shared social life – BBQs and edible landscape, bike stores and hobby huts.
Opposite, top: Illustrative Site Plan for Wates/RIBA Ideas for the Private Rented Sector competition. Opposite, bottom: Room with a view - living in the homestead
5% – 6P3B Houses 5% – 5P4B Houses
T5 3 Apts & 1 House 3x 4P2B (80m2) 1x 4P2B (76m2)
METROPOLITAN PAPERS 01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Shared Landscape & Neighbourhood Park The shared landscape offered by the homestead operates at graduated scales: from streets, squares, greens and courts that offer a focus for each cluster, and the neighbourhood park generated by the whole. This approach to scale offers a tailored response to existing context and the needs of residents now and in the future.
The neighbourhood park is a shared landscape environment. Within larger developments, along with the Homestead greens and gardens , each landscape can take on their own distinct character and type of amenity provided, with a diverse offer fostering a more integrated community.
Suggested shared amenity: 1. Recreation 2. Sculpture Trails 3. Swales and ponds 4. Crèche 5. Allotments 6. Formal gardens 7. Orchards 8. Play spaces 9. Local Shops 10. Meadow gardens
Right: Neighbourhood park and themed shared landscapes from illustrative Engie homestead framework. Opposite, Left: Lime Tree Square - FCB Studios. Centre left: Accordia - Grant Associates. Centre right: Wohnanlage - Zanderroth Architekten. Right: Great Kneighton - Proctor Matthews Architects
The Neighbourhood Park: Community centre for all homesteads The neighbourhood park acts as the heart of the development promoting sharing and healthy lifestyles, reinforcing its local identity, embedding the scheme into the existing neighbourhood and context. The park would accommodate larger communal amenities such as recreation pitches, crèches, allotments and local shops on its edges. It would also be the focus for schools and a larger high street if the size of the site dictated.
The Street: Public thoroughfare serving the homestead
The Square: Shared public realm for residents
The Green: Shared green space for homestead residents
Gardens & Yards: Private external space for homes
Streets designed for the prevalence of pedestrians and cyclists. Highway access is direct but subordinate within the street scene.
The square is the place where residents gather. Through everyday meetings as well as big occasions such as summer fetes and street parties.
The green or shared garden is an ecologically rich and biodiverse landscape with dense planting and lawns bounded by mixed beds of grasses, bulbs, flowering shrubs and herbaceous species for year round form and colour. These spaces are also for safe children’s play and for residents to grow their own food.
Each home will have dedicated private amenity as well as access to a number semiprivate external spaces, creating a protected retreat from the more public spaces and smaller sociable neighbourhood clusters.
Key features: Shared surfaces – connecting public realm and prioritising pedestrians and cyclists Prioritised active travel – designated pedestrian and cycle routes to local neighbourhood centres and public transport connections Discreet parking – visual impact reduced through landscape Places to dwell – opportunities for chance encounters with familiar faces, helping to nurture communities Planting – Trees to enliven street scene and heavily planted defensible space and front gardens to create a pleasant environment
Key features: Events facilities – pavilions equipped with infrastructure such as power and water Play spaces - from designated zones with equipment to more ad-hoc opportunities for imaginative exploration Incorporation of existing features – such as heritage assets or mature landscape can bring specific character to a space
Key features: Diverse planting – trees, hedges, shrubs, climbing plants and ground cover species, chosen to suit the site and provide an invigorating environment for residents and wildlife. Recreation – play equipment for young children as well as inviting landscape elements for incidental play Growing – designated planters and sheds for residents to grow own seasonal fruit and vegetables
Key features: Front gardens - are large enough to create a privacy buffer and allow personal expression Back gardens – overlooking the homestead green ideal for al-fresco dining in summer with low level boundary planters so residents can control their desired level of privacy through selective planting Balconies - ensure every home benefits from valuable outdoor amenity and enviable views from valuable outdoor amenity
PROSPECTS #01 â€” A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Market Forces A vision for Mayfields that reflects on its past to deliver a new kind of rural settlement - a new market town. A place with the charm and character of a village, and the life, creativity and culture of a thriving town.
MAYFIELDS is a vision for a new market town in mid Sussex which will provide homes for 20,000 people, formed of a number of typologies of self-sufficient, walkable, neighbourhoods surrounding an urban centre which will be flexible enough to provide a wide variety of densities whilst adapting to the existing landscape features. Traditional Wealden ‘farmsteads’ – small clusters of buildings that make up the farms found in the Weald – are the inspiration for this development of the homestead typology where a variety of adaptable homes – apartments, semi-detached, detached, and terraced houses – echo the traditional configuration of the farmhouse, the oasthouse, cattle sheds, barn, granary, and stables, clustered round a central working yard. The Wealden Homestead remains highly flexible; able to accommodate a wide mix of home types within the same two or threestorey building cluster. They can include one and two-bed apartments, two, three and four-bed homes, and large multi-generation homes for larger families, which can be built efficiently using modern methods of construction. Buildings are of a domestic scale, two or three storey, with pitched, gabled and valley roofs, typical of traditional Weald homes and buildings, and employing architectural motifs and use of materials – wall hung tile and timber weatherboard, corbelled parapets and patterned masonry panels – that are familiar to the area. At Mayfields the homestead has been developed into four different configurations to provide a range of densities and grouping of sympathetic home types and external amenity spaces, some shared some private. These distinct models can provide a wide range of densities between 25dph and 75dph depending on their proximity to the urban centre, and the need to adapt to changing landscapes, orientation, and topology. They can be varied to suit any plot size, shape or landscape condition including existing ancient woodland, rivers, hedgerows, roads, and bridleways. Within the Homesteads, the central spaces – the working yard of the traditional farmstead - are highly versatile and can accommodate private gardens, communal yards or orchards, hard landscaped ‘collegial courtyards’, or a combination of these reflecting the changing mix of dwellings that enclose them. Working in the context of open countryside provided the opportunity to experiment with the idea of splitting the housing clusters in half to open the central courtyards out to the surrounding landscape. This forms a cultivated buffer on the edge of the settlement, breaking down the density of development at the edge, and creating fingers of open space that lead to and connect with the surrounding countryside with its wildlife and walking trails and bridleways.
Mayfields provided an exciting opportunity to develop the homestead for a rural setting; one with its own pre-existing character of agricultural buildings, ancient woodland, hedgerows, lanes and bridleways. Working with a strong sense of place rooted in the Wealden landscape.
Jack Hughes— Project Architect
Opposite: Aerial of new denser neighbourhood, composed of groupings of homes, offering a variety of housing types separated by green public spaces. Right, top: Mayfields Site Plan. Right, centre left: Typical Sussex Weald Farmstead. Right, centre right: Traditional Weald roof styles. Right, bottom: View of new neighbourhood from river. Below: Weald vernacular provided inspiration for Mayfields materiality and architectural language.
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Density, Mix & Tenure The Homestead provides a flexible model. An interchangeable suite of house and villa typologies can be arranged to deliver a variety of density, mix and tenure within the same footprint.
THE HOMESTEAD is based on a grid street pattern. This allows the introduction of longer terraces that deliver greater density. Arrangement around a central shared space provides flexibility to introduce villas - small blocks of apartments - that can negotiate overlooking between the end terrace gables of the terraces.
spaces can be re-configured back into the shared landscape.
The villas, up to an appropriate scale (typically up to four storeys in a suburban location) can deliver more density and introduce greater choice in mix and tenure.
The three homestead axonometrics shown opposite are examples from Mayfields and show how a variety of housing typology can be arranged to vary density and mix.
By reducing the size of private gardens and reallocating the space to a shared central garden provides a more efficient footprint for each home, and for the homestead as a whole from both a resident’s and a developer’s point of view, while creating better neighbourhood benefits.
On larger sites with phased delivery, different arrangements of the homestead can be combined to create a variety of conditions. This allows each development to respond easily to changing market trends and demands in density, typology and tenure.
Breaks within the terraces allow secondary routes into the central garden and the opportunity to introduce different house types into the street, giving greater flexibility to respond to market demand and more variety and character to the street. A variety of house types and sizes and villa apartments can work around the shared landscape and accommodate a variety of tenures. Within the same homestead villas with one and two bed apartments can sit alongside houses ranging from two-bed starter homes up to large six-bed family homes. The homestead can easily support unbiased tenure mix and multi-generational living. Within the villas there is opportunity for more supported later living, extending the homestead’s demographic. The homestead supports a greater emphasis on active and public travel. Parking is also flexible and can be delivered within each homestead in peripheral bays, on-street and on-plot spaces and integrated garages so that it can respond to brief and local planning policy. All external parking is discreet, set within landscape with well-placed car club spaces. As car dependency reduces car
In a lower density homestead of houses (35dph), a car space to home ratio of 2:1 is achievable, whilst an apartment-led higher density homestead (up to 75dph) can deliver a ratio of 1:1.
The homestead framework can negotiate unusual geometries and boundary conditions, minimising effects to overall density as terraces run both vertically horizontally. Importantly boundary conditions provide constraints such as overlooking, sensitivity with existing built context, proximity to major roads or flood risk, the shared garden or yard can be extended to work as an effective intermediary.
Right: Three Mayfields homestead variations. Opposite: Cast model of Campbell Park Homestead.
Engie Homesteads with varying typologies illustrating flexibility in density, mix and tenure
C - 63 dph
A - 50 dph
Engie Homestead framework illustrating site wide flexibility in density and phasing
B - 57 dph
D - 69 dph
PROSPECTS #01 â€” A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Dublin Gateway Creating a design narrative for a new type of urban fringe. Negotiating between suburban and urban scales to deliver diverse and flexible places to live and work.
METROPOLITAN WORKSHOP were asked to prepare a masterplan of a currently underutilised 120 hectare area of land that is currently zoned in separate uses. The objective is to create a large scale, sustainable, well-connected community that will benefit from an enhanced existing transport node. The site is also bounded by two major motorways that offer a significant opportunity for connection of the site to the orbital and radial road network that connects Dublin, its airport and port with the rest of the island of Ireland. The masterplan will allow for a mix of different uses at an appropriate density on the lands and create a unique sense of place and provide many benefits to the community. The objective of this project is to prepare an outline masterplan for the lands that will be used to determine the optimum planning route and subsequent implementation options to develop this strategically important site. The site would be predominantly residential (of medium to high density) with complimentary uses to reflect sustainable development in manner appropriate to its setting and recognising its connection to the existing transport hub that is served by different modes of private and public transport that could address many objectives of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035.
Above, left: Masterplan approach. Top to bottom: 1. Constraints, 2. Linear Park, 3. Character Areas, 4. Distribution. Above: Illustrative aerial view of masterplan.
The site was organised around a 46ha east-west park allowing historical routes, watercourses and field pattern integrated into design. This layering of natural elements allowed the park to be interpreted through varying gradients relating to the water such as: Lawn Dry Meadow Wet Grassland Fresh Water Marshland Once the landscape strategy was established a 90metre x 90 metre grid was overlayed and the resulting cells allow density to flex and respond to edge conditions. The linear park negotiates change in grid orientations and allowed 3 main axis to create connections to transport hubs and the receiving environment. The Homestead was then used to investigate the flexibility of the gridded scheme allowing 3 distinct densities to be tested, namely: • Low density: 71-89 dph - 50% parking • Medium density: 98-111 dph - 50% parking • High density: 150-193 dph - 50% parking This allowed us to look beyond traditional suburban examples and move to a more urban and mixed use offer with the introduction of other compatible typologies which could respond and flex as site conditions and economic circumstances dictated.
Below: Top: Low density: 71-89 dph - 50% parking. Middle: Medium density: 98-111 dph - 50% parking. Bottom: High density: 150-193 dph - 50% parking.
Imagining successful new places starts with a sharing of collective experience, continues with a commitment to a plan at a ﬁxed point in time and starts to change the moment the ﬁrst brick is laid.
John O’Mahony — Managing Director, OMP Architects
PROSPECTS #01 â€” A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Pioneering Places â€” Greening the Grid
Conclusion Our winning ideas for the Wates sponsored RIBA open competition in 2013 delivered an economic, flexible and sustainable approach for rented housing in suburbia. Our proposals were honed by dialogue with several industryleading professionals including June Barnes, Daniel Kaye and Alan Leibowitz. The collaboration with the late Sir Richard MacCormac developed his theories of sustainable suburbia exploring higher densities and rational, legible and efficient housing layouts. The challenge of the brief was to devise a new way of thinking about rented communities in locations on the edge of the green belt. Our response was
simple; flexible clusters of homes in convivial arrangements and a mix of typologies around shared, communal gardens and yards. We called it the homestead; orthogonal layouts that use land efficiently to prioritise green space by optimising land utilisation and density. These higher densities providing efficiencies in highways and infrastructure costs which can be reinvested in the quality of communal amenity and biodiverse green streets and spaces. Our proposals challenge the traditional approaches to car dominated layouts favoured by volume house builders. These principles are now being utilisied at Oakfield
in Swindon, for Nationwide Building Societyâ€™s first ever housing scheme of 239 homes and at Campbell Park North in Milton Keynes for Urban Splash to provide a new twenty first century residential development for the pioneering city. These projects will demonstrate the benefits of the homestead, and create a new and well integrated model of housing which can be replicated anywhere in the country to provide mixed tenure, diverse and socially sustainable suburban settlements. Our work on the homesteads has evolved though our work with Engie and on a proposals for a major new settlement
South Dublin. The Engie homestead embraces modular housing technologies and incorporates new smart and sustainable energy infrastructure. At Dublin Gateway, the city edge location provided the opportunity for the Homestead to negotiate between the suburban and urban scales with interchangeable gird squares that can provide higher densities with apartments buildings and villa typologies and larger neighbourhood centres.
Traditional Suburbia vs The Homestead Traditional suburban development 19 dph Low density Private external space maximised Cul-de-sac layout lacks communal focus, shared amenity and coherence Private sale only Middle aged family households
The Engie Homestead 42 dph Mid density (35-75 dph) Terrace rows ordered around central green with complimentary shared landscape Multi-generational Supports diverse tenure and mix Legible street grid promoting active lifestyles
Highways & footpaths
Highways & footpaths
Above: Masterplan illustration, Campbell Park North, Milton Keynes
PROSPECTS #01 â€” A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Building Society Nationwide A new neighbourhood for Oakfield. An integrated mixed tenure community and the first homes developed by Nationwide.
PROJECT: Oakfield LOCATION: Swindon CLIENT:
Nationwide Building Society
Technical Design (RIBA Stage 4)
THE HOMES we have designed at Oakfield are seen as the catalyst for wider change in the neighbourhood, not merely as an end in themselves. The following principles have guided the project throughout its course: Society Building a mutually supportive community and neighbourhood from the outset, positively impacting communities beyond the red line of the project Diversity Meeting the aspirations of the widest range of households, including those under-served by the mainstream market Affordability Committing to the Council’s policy level of affordable housing, and providing a wide range of market homes to suit different lifestyles and stages Robustness Designing and building solid, comfortable homes which meet customer priorities, in a setting that is thoughtfully and properly managed in the longer term Transparency Demonstrating best practice in marketing, sales, lettings and aftercare processes
which integrate parking with footpaths and communal gardens therefore maximising permeability and accessibility. The use of carefully located buildings, planting and landscape are utilised to enclose, screen and reveal certain defined territories (a public square, a private garden, a busy road or a quiet passageway) which gives opportunities for pause, change of speed, direction or a sense of arrival. By creating these separated and legible places of enclosure, we can offer a deeper reading of the streets and parks that link them; a series of short journeys with a defined beginning and end. Expressing the relationships between the buildings and their adjacent open spaces, creates a neighbourhood with a palpable sense of identity. The development is designed to extend its positive influence beyond the site boundaries, improving the public realm around the shops, creating a new community hub near The Oakfield Project; a special education school located adjacent to the site, and helping to connect the surrounding communities to the local amenities and to each other along attractive new routes.
Replicability Breaking even and allowing other responsible organisations to follow the spirit and process of this project in their own localities. The scheme provides 239 homes with a mixture of tenures, suitable for local people at every stage of their life, from first time buyers, to families, to over 55s. The project aims to deliver a high-quality benchmark for housing, which challenges the approach of the traditional volume house builder. The economic arrangement of home types, forming terraces around communal courts, are designed to foster community spirit, and enable a higher proportion of the site to be devoted to soft landscape, even at high parking densities. The project has been developed through extensive consultation with the local community and in close dialogue with the council’s planning team. The conceptual framework for the development is based on creating a permeable and walkable new neighbourhood with a grid of streets and paths that respond to existing facilities: local shops, bus stops, walking and cycling routes, allotments and open green spaces, to facilitate the integration of the site with the surrounding area. By connecting existing cycle routes and providing well maintained attractive foot paths away from loud busy roads, we begin the process of making a place for all communities. New streets and parks can connect these neighbourhoods with valued local amenities. A single primary vehicular street connects Greenbridge Road and Marlowe Avenue. It feeds the dwellings via tertiary roads, which are designed to be over looked to allow for safe, pedestrian priority shared areas
I’m really encouraged by the emerging architecture, it will heavily contribute towards creating a strong sense of place and a distinctive identity for the future community that will live here. This would set an exemplary design standard for the rest of our major housing development across the Borough.
Peter Garitsis BAS, MCPUD — Urban Designer & Masterplanner, Swindon Borough Council
Opposite: Illustrative view from the street. Above, top: Illustrative view from neighbourhood green. Above, bottom: Oakfield Site Plan. Right: Masterplan Strategy - re-established links to local centre and green corridors to existing parks.
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Granville Road Levitt Bernstein The project will regenerate the Granville Road Estate in the London Borough of Barnet through sensitive infill development and significant landscape improvements, providing additional homes and a better environment for new and existing residents.
THE ESTATE currently features three 15-storey tower blocks and three mid-rise buildings, situated within a suburban street network of semi-detached and terraced homes. Three apartment buildings and a series of terraces will be carefully stitched into this streetscape; making use of underused amenity space to densify the estate and provide much-needed new homes for the local community. The masterplan creates a simple, legible layout that re-establishes a traditional street pattern and creates a more cohesive sense of place. A strong central spine running north to south introduces new public spaces, increases permeability across the estate and further integrates it within the wider context. Reconfiguring and improving green space is central to this project, with particular areas designed to respond to the character and geometry of the nearby buildings. In response to the repetitive nature of the existing 1960’s architecture, our design approach is for each typology to be visually distinct. This is expressed primarily through different roof profiles, which are also exaggerated by the sloping nature of the site. Other aspects are deliberately kept relatively simple with more subtle variations introduced in details such as the design of the bay windows, entrances, brick detailing and balconies, which respond to the context and create a variety of character areas across the neighbourhood. Houses are generally designed with an emphasis on vertical proportions, whereas the new apartment buildings reflect the strong, simple geometric form of the existing towers by emphasising horizontal parapet lines and minimising large steps in height.
A limited palette of materials and details for both the new homes and landscape elements, predominantly featuring light, cream coloured brickwork complemented by bronze metal cladding, will unify the contrasting nearby architectural characters and ensure a cohesive character is formed between old and new. A key element of the design brief was to integrate car parking areas across the estate. Two of the apartment buildings feature underground parking with vehicle ramps and secure gates, which are carefully screened to allow simple ventilation and extra green amenity. Additional car parks will also be created at the rear of existing buildings, so that in total, 332 new parking spaces are being provided. There is also sufficient storage for at least one bicycle per home and 30 pram sheds will be re-provided for the existing buildings. The majority of new homes are terraced houses, not only to sensitively respond to the predominantly suburban streetscape, but to address the lack of family accommodation within the local area. This new provision will in turn free up apartments better suited to single occupants, couples and small families. Furthermore, the proposed tenure mix reflects the council’s wish to create a more balanced community, with more shared ownership and private sale homes to complement the large number of affordable rental homes already on the estate.
LOCATION: Barnet, London CLIENT:
Granville Road LLP
Post Planning (Completion 2020)
373 homes (132 new & retaining 241)
Jo McCafferty Director, Levitt Bernstein
The landscape strategy knits the new and existing buildings together, creating a green ribbon f high quality amenity across the long and narrow site. A new linear green space sits at its heart, whilst new public squares front onto each of the existing towers, ensuring both new and existing residents benefit from the public realm interventions. Across all of these spaces, various opportunities for structured and incidental play are also introduced.
This scheme will be carefully integrated into the existing estate, improving the streetscape and amenity for existing residents whilst offering a wider range of homes for the local community.
Eamon Oâ€™Malley â€” Director, Sherrygreen Homes
Left, top: Illustrative view of Granville Road. Left, bottom: Granville Road house types. Below: Granville Road site plan.
NEW BUILDINGS EXISTING BUILDINGS
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Power to the People A new suite of low cost housing typologies and a flexible residential framework for Engie’s introduction into the UK housing market provide battery powered homes for modern twenty-first century suburbia.
PROJECT: Engie Living LOCATION: Various CLIENT:
METROPOLITAN WORKSHOP have worked with multinational energy supplier Engie to develop a new suite of modular homes targeted at the UK suburban PRS market. We have also created a flexible masterplan framework that employs the Homestead concept, to allow these home-types to be deployed over various sites across the United Kingdom. We have created a Design Manual to allow Engie’s regional delivery teams and/or architects to use the house typologies and our approach to the masterplan to prepare outline and detailed planning applications, before moving through to construction and delivery of major new suburban developments – for which Engie will supply energy and retain management of the sites. All developments will include Engie’s new sustainable energy infrastructure providing affordable, greener energy to homeowners, with any excess energy production feeding back into the National Grid. The homestead was adapted to allow more homes to have on-plot parking to allow for electric car charging. However other parking was pushed to the periphery along primary access roads. This meant the homesteads’ private and shared landscape
can be optimised for residents, making more space available for communal uses, while ensuring each home has good private amenity. House types are arranged around generous, overlooked shared gardens and yards encouraging neighbours to come together and allowing children to play safely. Further hierarchical squares, courts and yards encourage collegial living creating opportunities for interaction, fostering more inclusive communities. The Engie Homestead can provide density up to 80 dwellings per hectare, whilst still providing generous, green communal amenity within an efficient and legible grid structure. The Engie Homestead can be tessellated to respond to site conditions and within a phased development can flex to respond to changing market trends, mix and tenure demands. All Engie Homes have been designed to modular spatial parameters to allow the homes to be prefabricated off-site. This will provide extensive benefits compared to relying solely on traditional build methods. Each house type can be customised in the factory to deliver maximum consumer choice and a high-precision finish.
circulation core which reduces the amount of construction work required on-site, whilst also allowing a diverse suite of house types to be generated from a set of engine and spine modules. Remaining living and bedroom modules are also designed to off-site spatial design parameters but can be built in traditional construction methods, if required. The design approach offers ways to incorporate different degrees of prefabrication depending on the most economical and viable route. It allows easy future extension and adaption with standard service or living modules being able to be added at any point. Engie’s house range is designed to accommodate growing demographic trends such as multi-generational homes and livework studios, all stemming from the core module concepts. There is also a modular apartment type that provides further variety and can accommodate later living. All the home-types can be provided within the Homestead cluster and flexed in terms of numbers and types to suit local need.
The principal feature of Engie homes is a prefabricated wet room, service and
Opposite: Illustrative view of Engie Homestead. Left, top: All homes with direct relationship to shared landscape. Left, bottom: Illustrative aerial view of Engie Homestead. Below: Illustrative view of loft living format for Engie Homestead.
ENGIE has long recognised that globally we are facing unprecedented challenges to our societies and communities. We believe that to meet these challenges we need to collectively change our behaviours and work together to create connected places, places with beauty and places with community. These places must meet the wants and needs of all parts of society and we are fully invested in providing a new range of suburban living formats that accommodate a wider range of tenure, mix and density. By providing our homes and places with the latest smart technology, by enabling residents to share and reduce energy usage and by ensuring clean and decentralised energy generation and storage we can continue the market shift to longer term and more sustainable models of place-making.
Chris Langdon — Development and Investment Director
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
A Modular Future — New Thinking, New Suburbia
Mark Latham interviewed by Dhruv Sookhoo.
Mark Latham, Regeneration Director, Urban Splash predicts the future of suburbia and discusses how modular approaches are offering quality hungry consumers greater choice.
MARK LATHAM is Regeneration Director at Urban Splash, currently responsible for future phases of the celebrated renovation of the grade 2* listed Park Hill, Sheffield, and the delivery of Smith’s Docks regeneration masterplan in North Shields, Tyneside. He read Classics at the University of Cambridge, before undertaking a MA in Art in Greek and Roman Art and Architecture from the Courtauld Institute and MSc in Urban Regeneration, Development and Planning from University College London. He served as a Senior Regional Advisor to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (2003-2006) and is a past panel member of the Sheffield Sustainable Development and Design Panel (2006-2011). He is currently client lead for Campbell Park North and Northstowe, two residential led schemes in Milton Keynes and North Cambridgeshire. Mark is interviewed here as an advocate of modern methods of construction in residential design and development and for his insights into the way contemporary approaches to modular housing will inform how suburban settings will be experienced by residents now and in the future.
The interview is conducted in conjunction with Metropolitan Workshop’s New Kind of Suburbia exhibition and event series. Dhruv Sookhoo: Suburbia conjures up different things to different people. What does the word mean to you? Mark Latham: My experience of suburbia is the surreal, closeted versions you find in British military bases around the world from Warminster to Germany to Cyprus. The house-types and cul-de-sacs are straight out of volume builder playbooks, but you’re inside a barbed wire fence and outside there may be palm-trees or lederhosen! Like all army families, we moved on every two to three years, never putting down the roots, that are – it seems to me – one of the great strengths of suburbia. At its best, suburbia for me conjures up: peaceful leafy streets, neighbourliness, spaciousness and stability, connections with nature and green space, a sense of comfort, security and community. The classic flipside to this is the potential for banality, uniformity, that reflects a settled, self-satisfied understanding of normative behaviours. There is potential for suburbia to produce a suffocating sameness and for that characterless repetition of built form to reflect the assumption that every life lived within the suburban homes are identical. This leaves a nagging feeling of disconnectedness and isolation, which goes with that lack of diversity and sense of underwhelming mediocrity. In this kind of suburbia there may be a feeling that real life is going on somewhere else in the exciting, wider world. DS: Urban Splash is celebrated for its unique approach to residential development. What do you predict will be the major changes
in the way we experience and conceived of suburbia by 2050? ML: I won’t be the only one thinking that a massive driver will surely be climate change, coupled with advances in technology – both offer constraints and opportunities. For suburbia, I see particular impacts in terms of changing habits around transport, and different opportunities for physical and digital connectedness. The pressure to reduce private car ownership and the possibilities of autonomous, on-demand, subscriptionbased personal transport services will trigger a number of shifts: public transport networks could be newly invigorated and more people will cycle or walk. Just think of all that space currently set aside for storing cars – in garages, on plot, on street, in car parks – that could be freed up for alternative uses. Technology will continue to erode that suburban sense of disconnectedness and distance from the heart of things. Now, the world is within your grasp from your phone, you can work from home, you can browse the virtual shelves of any shop from your armchair. Some interactions – live music, meeting up with mates at the pub, kissing your lover – will remain resolutely face-toface. But the balance between the tranquillity and separation of the suburb on the one hand and the activity, congestion and exchange of urban centres will be ever more blurred. Another looming challenge is demographic change, and the need to develop living formats and communities adaptable to multi-generational occupation. How do we enable older people living ever longer and healthier lives to continue to live in suburban locations where they have roots, social capital and networks, and form vital civil societal functions, whilst freeing them from sitting on large house assets better suited to families.
DS: Speculative developers have used pattern books or house types for centuries, with mixed results for suburban place-making. As relatively new entrants to the housing market how do you manage the tension between delivering a standardized, modular product and your desire to create unique places?
We are now working with shedkm on ways to apply a wide variety of facade treatments, materiality and colour on to our standard volumetric chassis using common fixing systems. This allows us to respond more sensitively to local character and conditions, and to vary elevational appearances even within a single terrace or street of houses, without overly compromising efficiency and standardisation, or resorting to pastiche. We are very active in this area of research and development at the moment, and this modular approach will be key to unlocking many more sites and consents.
ML: You’ve hit the nail on the head – that is precisely the central challenge we face as we look to disrupt housebuilding norms and scale up our modular business: how to balance repetition and variety, efficient standardization and individual customization, repeatable typologies and local contextual responses. After all, we want to beat the volume-builders, not join them.
We are also developing a family of formats of different sizes to sit alongside Townhouse offering further variety and a clear focus on their ability to be mixed and matched in many different layout configurations – terraced, crescent, semi-detached and freestanding. Over time, I believe we will need to explore formats for other uses to be incorporated – corner shops, a pub, homeworking, older care.
One answer is that the inherent flexibility of our modular typologies is specifically intended to allow multiple purchasers to occupy the same basic footprint in many different ways. This facilitates greater social diversity, not necessarily normative household types, and the layouts can be readily changed over time, building in long-term adaptability.
Finally we will always play close attention to the wider setting – the role of public space, streets, gardens, unique historical and landscape features that frame the houses themselves. We have always been committed to highly bespoke and place-specific responses in our developments. That won’t change, even though the house types may be essentially repeated.
In a number of Urban Splash projects we are actively designing in future-proofed thinking across these and other emerging issues – we can’t hope to get it all right, but suburbia has proofed a resilient and adaptable format over the years.
Left: Volumetric floor modules of Townhouse being craned into position to form terrace rows at New Islington, Manchester. Above, top: Illustrative aerial view of Port Loop, Birmingham. Above, bottom: Sketch masterplan of Northstowe, Cambridge by Proctor & Matthews Architects
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
DS: Other modular products attempt to replicate the neo-vernacular aesthetic associated with volume housebuilders. You commission developments that don’t. Does this limit your market to more pioneering residents? ML: Maybe, but that’s still not a small market! Yes, there will be buyers who prefer the safety of traditional looking homes, but in our view, people very often buy a home from a volume housebuilders simply because that’s the only thing on offer. We are proud and vocal champions of contemporary design. We want our homes to look like they’ve been built in the 21st Century – because they have. It may not be to everyone’s taste but we don’t need or want to appeal to absolutely everyone. We certainly think there are plenty of people out there dissatisfied with what the volume builders offer and who are looking for other choices. The popularity of Grand Designs, the burgeoning interest in conversions, self-build and custom-build, all indicates an ever more design-aware and quality-hungry public, and unmet market demand.
On the supply side, many developers err towards conservative styling because of perceived planning risk. It’s often far easier to get consent for stuff that looks like standard volume housing builder product, than to stick your neck out and create homes that have a strong contemporary look. Neo-vernacular will get waved through on the nod nine times out of ten – it’s hard for an authority to refuse what has already been consented hundreds of times before. Whereas anything unfamiliar, bold or new will be scrutinised and grilled to the nth degree, even when it’s demonstrably of higher quality! DS: Traditional suburban housing is often associated with low density housing within and the predominance of private gardens over shared amenity and public realm. How have Urban Splash challenged these stereotypes to provide more cohesive neighbourhoods? ML: We are very interested in this dynamic and the potential to combine the best suburban qualities of plentiful private open green space and tranquillity, whilst maintaining relatively high densities of dwellings per hectare and a sense of
community and place. In standard volumeville suburbia, built frontages and public realm are highly fragmented, street patterns and routes meandering and non-intuitive, cul-de-sacs lead you to dead ends, land use is often wasteful. Our modular Townhouse is essentially an urban terraced, rather than suburban typology, lending itself to more conventional legible linear streets and blocks and higher densities than normal suburbia. Not only is this more responsible use of land, but moves towards densities capable of sustaining more local amenities, more frequent public transport services and reducing cardependent travel habits. In terms of gardens, the volume builder offering is usually little larger than a postage stamp, a token scrap of land to call your own, penned in by a tall garden fence. At our Port Loop scheme in Birmingham, our upcoming projects in Milton Keynes and Northstowe outside Cambridge, we are offering generous private patios demised to each house at the back giving out onto larger shared communal gardens at the heart of
each perimeter block. This not only offers the opportunity for meaningful areas of open green space with the possibility of larger mature trees and space to breathe but also promotes neighbourly interaction and a sense of community. It’s interesting to see other recent projects, such as Marmalade Lane in Cambridge taking a similar approach. DS: Modular housing has potential to offer residents varying, welcome degrees of choice through customization. But how do you manage the tension between managing variation and delivering efficiency and buildability? ML: We see customer choice as a really important component of changing housebuilding norms. The modular construction methodology came from that, not the other way round. We think it’s important to give customers choice to inhabit their homes in a way that suits their lifestyle, household makeup and what’s most important to them – and potentially to change that over time as well – because one size really doesn’t fit all. The industry is fixated on the number of bedrooms a house has. Whereas, we all know it’s not just about bedroom numbers, but size, layout and how you live in them that counts. A big open plan format may suit couples with no children or older downsizers, but not a busy family of five. Having your living space on the top floor could work brilliantly in a location looking out over a fantastic view or a congested urban location, whereas plenty will prefer daily contact with the garden on the ground floor.
Opposite: Top floor living in Townhouse designed by shedkm architects for Urban Splash. Below: Campbell Park North Competition Masterplan.
The point that as far as possible is we don’t decide what matters, the customer does. You’re right that there is a tension between variation and efficiency. But car makers like Jaguar-Landrover have managed to crack this, providing high levels of customization through honed and superefficient manufacturing processes. In other countries, like Japan, these principles have been successfully applied to housebuilding too. So it is possible. We have worked hard together with architects shedkm and our in-house design team at Urban Splash Modular to achieve a format which is highly rational and simple in its framework, but adaptable to variety with minimal changes to the base. When we first developed the Town House concept with shedkm, it quickly became clear that the format was capable of providing hundreds of different permutations through different wall positions and room arrangements within the same base ‘box’. We deliberately whittled this down to a more manageable seventy-two options. Not only to avoid cost and factory production complexities, but also to avoid blinding the customer with choice overload. Making this approach work requires adaptations needed to sales processes, careful management of order lead times in the factory and so on which we continue to refine and improve. We are operating outside many of the received norms of the industry and constantly learning as we go. But we like that, we’ve always enjoyed writing new rules, stepping where others fear to tread and refusing to believe that “it will never work”.
DS: Proportionately, very few architects participate in the design and delivery of mass housing, rather than one-off homes. This is often identified as being a barrier to achieving improved residential design. What impact do you think this absence of architects and other designers has on how we experience suburbia? ML: Looking at some of the best recent housing: Accordia, Great Kneighton and Eddington in Cambridge, New Hall in Harlow, and Mikhail Riches’ newly-completed Goldsmith Street in Norwich. Whilst the quality of the individual homes is notable, so too is the sense of a distinct place, which you can warm to and identify with. A place you would be proud to call home. There is clear contemporary architectural language, but also connections to recognisable local materials, proportions, building forms, layouts and landscape, which gives these projects a sense of simultaneously being familiar and new. That’s not an easy trick to pull off. Designing and detailing beautiful individual house types is not sufficient, you have to be able to assemble and marshal them into successful collections of homes, which work coherently with each other and the surrounding landscape to form satisfying streets, and squares, and neighbourhoods. And let’s be clear, not all architects – even really good ones – have those masterplanning abilities. The role of landscape and urban designers to shape the wider setting is also crucial. What is certain, however, is that
without good designers you get “anywhereville”. The endless, featureless suburbia that Gordon Cullen wrote about in the 1970s. DS: Any final thoughts? ML: Yes, the role of architects and other designers is obviously central, but you also need skilled and committed clients with a vision and values beyond simply making the most money possible out of any given piece of land. There are a handful of us out there, and thankfully we are growing in number. It’s high time we all had a good go at a new kind of suburbia.
PROSPECTS #01 â€” A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Living in the Park Campbell Park North takes the garden city principles that inspired Milton Keynes into the twenty first century. A new neighbourhood with a rich mix of modern homes in a diverse landscape that prioritises healthier, more active lifestyles.
PROJECT: Campbell Park North LOCATION: Milton Keynes CLIENT:
THE LAST EMPTY city centre plot in Milton Keynes (MK) will become home to our Campbell Park North scheme for Urban Splash. A competition winning residential led masterplan to provide around 1250 homes defined into two main parcels; Parkside – a new neighbourhood that directly overlooks the park and canalside a new leisure destination that addresses the Grand Union Canal. A distinctly MK development it stays rooted in the New Town and Garden City ethos. It re-imagines Milton Keynes’ six founding principles into a brief that responds to the city’s current needs and future aspirations as a pioneering and forward facing city: 1. Opportunity and Freedom of Choice – Pioneering City, Pioneering People 2. Easy Movement and Access – Future Transport 3. Balance and Variety – Future Neighbourhood 4. An Attractive City – Future Garden City 5. Public Awareness and Participation – The People’s Park 6. Efficient and Imaginative Use of Resources – Sustainable Futures All residents will live within generous green amenity and along with strengthened connections into the neighbouring park, healthier, more active lifestyles can be fostered. Landscape environments are varied and relate to distinct character areas. The more public fronts to the site, along Silbury Boulevard and the canal towpath, deliver higher densities with villas and barge houses sitting within mature forest gardens or rich wetland. The interior is a more domestic scale employing the Homestead with its variety of house typologies arranged around more private resident gardens and courts. The Ancient Portway, the reminiscence of a Roman road, running through the site is celebrated. Its mature linear habitat becoming an informal green thread that links each homestead together.
The Parkside neighbourhood responds to the established MK grid and Classic Infrastructure. Their flexible framework works within a block structure defined by the existing internal road layout. The redway cycle and pedestrian route that connects the city to the Grand Union Canal is maintained and enhanced with a series of civic spaces hosting complimentary actives uses and is extended northwards to link back into the larger network. Canalside is a special location. The existing meadow landscape to its higher plateau is retained with a patchwork of large townhouses introduced that overlook the basin and a creeping wetland that engulfs the barge houses creating a unique residential environment and leisure destination for MK. Both neighbourhoods will deploy a suite of typologies including Urban Splash’s existing and new modular house types that provide flexible multi-generational homes with innovative tenure mix delivering access to greater quality of homes for all ages and pockets and allow changing housing needs to be met without the loss of community cohesion. Parking is discreet, hidden under tree canopies along radial roads or sunken within two consolidated podiums utilising the significant level changes throughout the site. As a result the central Homesteads are car free and prioritise pedestrian access throughout the site. Metropolitan Workshop lead the masterplan and design team that also include shedkm, Glen Howell Architects and Grant Associates.
The homestead plays an important role within the wider masterplan for Campbell Park North. Its flexibility in accommodating varied typology allows it to mediate the scale change between its neighbouring urban context and within a phased development allow the framework to respond to market demands in relation to changing density, mix and tenure requirements.
Gareth Bansor — Project Architect
Opposite and above, left: : Illustrative view of Campbell Park North. Above, right: Campbell Park North, Phase 1. Below, left: Barge Houses at Canalside.
PROSPECTS #01 â€” A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Recalling Milton Keynes: Visions of Suburbia Metropolitan Workshop has been continuously engaged with suburbia ever since Founding Partner, David Prichard began working in Milton Keynes from the 1970â€™s.
DAVID PRICHARD founded Metropolitan Workshop with Neil Deely in 2005, having worked together at MJP Architects (formerly MacCormac Jamieson Prichard). He has contributed to suburban developments across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, building schemes in the new towns of Milton Keynes, Cwmbran, Warrington, Basildon and London Docklands. Working with Neil at MJP, he led the Ballymun Regeneration Masterplan. A chance encounter in 1960s suburbia saw him apply to the Bartlett School of Architecture, where he met Richard MacCormac during crits. He won the Sir Andrew Taylor Prize for a suburban housing competition entry, joining Richard MacCormac and Peter Jamieson when they formed their practice in 1972. David shares his recollections about his experiences of the planning and development processes that saw Milton Keynes continue to deliver innovative forms of suburbia from the early 1970s under the patronage of the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC).
David Prichard interviewed by Dhruv Sookhoo
The interview is conducted in conjunction with Metropolitan Workshop’s New Kind of Suburbia exhibition and event series. Dhruv Sookhoo: Suburbia means different things to different people. What does it mean to you as an ideal, and what specific character do you think developed in Milton Keynes? David Prichard: I was very lucky. My formative years as a child during the 1950s were spent in a very green suburb with a river, park, common, and a garden to roam around. All suburbs should offer that open environment to young families, and other generations too. Milton Keynes certainly does, along with all the other facilities one needs are nearby. Being the last of the New Towns it benefited from the lessons learned in other towns. Its location is ideal to thrive economically, and thanks to a talented design team, it is blessed with excellent transport and landscape infrastructure. DS: What difference did this clear vision from the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC) make to you as an architect, relative to other suburban schemes you have worked on where there has been less civic leadership? DP: The bold vision was part of that postwar, 1960 era of optimism and love of the new. MKDC was a well-oiled machine leading and capable of managing all facets of the proposals, the process and future constitution. Governments of the day promoted CPO powers (compulsory purchase order) to acquire land and were confident to finance and deliver all the infrastructure necessary. Virtually unheard of today. It was the era of real town planning, not just the development control role more familiar today. The scale of Milton Keynes necessitated a collaboratively minded multidisciplinary team. Unlike some our other new towns, the scale, ambition and pace of development attracted many visitors from around the world who came to see and admire how the UK planners did it. Many of the early schemes were designed in-house and at the time few consultant architects were thought to be sufficiently conversant with Housing Cost Yardstick method of funding to be trusted to tackle social housing. The funding regime was a game where you needed a smart quantity surveyor to help manipulated the site area, mix, density, house frontage (using National Building Agency metric shell house plans), repetition and to articulate what were abnormals (i.e. unusual ground conditions, cut and fill and services and so forth). After much wriggling of the plans to improve funding we found the budget finally allocated by the Department of the Environment was usually just enough to achieve a reasonable quality outcome. Every plan had to be drawn on the 300mm planning grid, fulfill the Parker Morris Space Standards (to +/1%), and illustrate the prescribed furniture schedule. For the later schemes, all the other consultant services were provided by MKDC. All that changed in 1980s with the Thatcherite shift away from state funded
social housing. That was an early challenge for MKDC to be inventive and harness developers’ appetite by pioneering the shared ownership, promoting bespoke versions of Design and Build forms of contract. DS: How did the planning approach attempt to integrate existing and new communities? I have read the heroic accounts of delivering a modern vision for Milton Keynes, but it must have been a challenge to realize integration without imposing a modern vision on existing villages and hamlets? DP: Milton Keynes was conceived of as a kilometre square grid. A soft web drapes over the undulating countryside, embracing numerous villages and town, and the existing population at Bletchley, New Bradwell, Stony Stratford and Wolverton. The grid square aimed to defend these villages from through traffic, and fairly distribute schools, surgeries, shops, public transport and recreation facilities to support the enlarged population. I may be wrong, but I don’t think the existing communities displayed strong NIMBY attitudes, potentially because planned investment in new facilities paid dividends for existing residents and well as new ones. Three of the ten schemes we built in MK were village extensions but our land parcels came forward some years after their designation and we hope, by virtue of their design, the receiving community saw benefits. DS: The idea of the infrastructure as a soft web is evocative. What is surprising for me, about The Plan for Milton Keynes (1970) by Llewelyn-Davies Weeks Forestier-Walker and Bor, is the consideration of green space against topography1. Their idea is communicated in the planning document by superimposing colour and annotation over a physical sketch model (Figure 1). The vibrancy of the graphics describing the distribution of land use is striking, and the same codified language runs through the whole document (Figure 2). As restrained as the document is, it communicates a spatial vision in a graphically coherent way. What do you remember of how the vision for Milton Keynes was communicated to you as an architect?
DP: Yes, there was so much green proposed, and a huge amount was delivered up front! It was an integral part of MKDC vision for the new town. New housing estates in those days were often very raw, treeless places whereas MKDC appreciated the need to present the land parcels to make them look attractive to investors and for the trees to be better than ‘pipe cleaners’ at handover. What this meant was to satisfy MKDC you had to consider landscape and topographic context from the outset, as infrastructure. As parcel architects, we were expected to dress each street, coordinate with neighbouring land parcels, and work with the MKDC landscape designer on that grid square to ensure the planned green spaces added up to a coherent and distinctive collection of places. DS: Reading Derek Walker’s The Architecture and Planning of Milton Keynes (1982:108)2 he explains that the Development Corporation considered it desirable to involve private practices in about 40% of the design work to complement the work of the in-house teams. He explains that there was the perception that few private architects had the “tenancy or inside knowledge to play the yardstick game” considered a “bureaucratic labyrinth”. Did you feel a sense that the public and private sector were working to a shared vision? How did you experience the funding standards of the day a bureaucratic burden? Writing about the time seems private practitioners tend to be quite romantic about the bureaucracy and the public good that may flow from it. DP: I felt there was a good camaraderie between MKDC in-house teams and the private practices they selected. The in-house teams found the different perspectives of private practices valuable, and I think they found us supportive and we did appreciate the pressures they were under. The private practices were selected by the MKDC team, so were people they wanted to work with and who had a reputation that could enhance the bigger picture and share in their social vision. Its important to understand that the funding regime was not set up to deliver a fancy vision, it was administered by QS’s to
squeeze more homes out of the same pot of money. Overall, it was the vision, rather than bureaucratic control that inspired talented architects to rub halfpennies together to make places for homes, rather than just play a numbers game. DS: There seems to be a tension between the radical social programme that informed the New Town Movement and the sense that suburbia is a mundane, placeless form potentially unworthy of an architect’s attention. DP: Some critics of the New Towns, and Milton Keynes in particular, emphasised the over reliance on cars (like Los Angeles), the grid of road with anonymous roundabouts, social housing estates for overspill from London and Birmingham, and some concrete cows (an early public art installation). Reducing the vision for Milton Keynes to these components, made it an easy target for disdainful comments by those who had never visited, and had only heard of the new town blues. DS: I’m interested in that reading of the suburbs, as being potentially depressing or mundane places. Particularly new town blues? DP: Best ask a sociologist! But I believe the blues then were the consequence of
1. Llewelyn Davies Weeks Forestier-Walker Bor, The Plan for Milton Keynes: Volume One (Milton Keynes: Milton Keynes Development Corporation, 1970). 2. Derek Walker, The Architecture and Planning of Milton Keynes (London: Architectural Press, 1982), p.108 Opposite: Figure 1: Open Space within Milton Keynes (Llewelyn Davies Weeks Forestier-Walker and Bor 1970:28. Below, left: Figure 2a: Land Use Budget (Llewelyn Davies Weeks Forestier-Walker and Bor 1970:22) Below, middle: Figure 2b: Strategic Plan (Llewelyn Davies Weeks Forestier-Walker and Bor 1970:24) Below, right: Figure 2c: Residential Densities (Llewelyn Davies Weeks Forestier-Walker and Bor 1970:25)
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
poor phasing of social infrastructure. The prejudice against New Towns in the 1970s and 1980s came from my parent’s generation of Tories who supported the idea of relocating tenants out of town, because they were undoubtedly thought of by many as second-class citizens for not striving to own their home. Many of the New Towns were located beside our industrial centres to support employment, but in the mid-1980s many of those industries were in extreme decline. The northern cities suburbs and new towns suffered visible economic decline with consequent social deprivation. This appears to me to confirm southerners’, and probably politicians’, prejudices against new towns as being a solution for the UK’s housing crisis. As a newly qualified architect, the social housing movement fitted my ambition to be socially useful and help build a better and less divided society. I recall Lubetkin (a Russian émigré in the 1930s) writing about architecture as a’ tool for social improvement’ and declaring ‘nothing is too good for ordinary people’. But now with hindsight the lack of tenure blindness accentuated the divide and singled out social housing! The monotony of many 1930s suburbs was cheap material for critics. John Betjeman’s satire ‘Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough…’ articulated the boredom of the fabric of that suburb’s workplaces and homes created by ‘vulgar profiteers’. He later founded the Victorian Society. DS: Much speculative development is considered staid and poor quality, and the produced through almost unchanging development practices. While it is a danger for any project to slip into that territory, it doesn’t necessary reflect our experience as architects. But do you think the perspective that suburb is mundane, safe and fixed, is preventing a demand for new forms of suburban innovation? DP: I don’t think anyone is put off by suburbia now. On the contrary, the ideal of merging town and country is still very appealing. Architects are depressed by a lot of suburbia, because of its poor planning, banal design and inferior built quality. Developers always say it is what the customer wants. But we all know, often the customer has little choice. Innovation of the suburban form is urgently needed, particularly to meet current or emerging social issues. There is potential to increase the density of some suburban areas in high demand. This intensification would make more sustainable use of land, increase housing affordability, use existing transport infrastructure and make communities more viable to service. But it takes ingenuity and thoughtfulness, civic leadership, and time to realize these solutions. Nationally, our Housing Minister’s reigns are short-lived. The current one, Brokenshire, recently announced a policy to extend Permitted Development to allow two extra storeys. That seems to be the most crude and destructive proposition for suburban intensification. If rolled out, the unintended consequences will be appalling for neighbours and anyone with a flicker of
visual awareness. As Derek Walker said in the 1980s: the UK’s housing crisis needs a Messiah not a Minister! DS: It seems every generation of architects is confronted by a new form of housing crisis. Your professional education seems to have primed you to work on large scale residential projects with a social agenda where suburbia was part of the solution. DP: In my student days, housing was thought to be too complex for students to tackle. It is complex, but to counter that, the sooner you start to engage critically with housing the better. As a post-grad I did two self-defined housing projects: one on communal living and another a national housing competition. I met visiting critics who were pioneers in the field of housing, who later employed me. For me, university was a route into the real world of housing design. Universities, practices and students should do their best to continue to forge these connections to empower future architects to engage not only with best practice but future practice while they are students. DS: What advice would you give my generation of architects about how to tackle our housing crisis. Do you think suburbia deserves more attention as a form able to drive innovation? DP: I think innovation is needed in development finance models so as to broaden home ownership; for example by transitioning tenancies into ownerships, and by funding communal living models for extended families and the elderly. Poor housing management and neglect of upkeep is conspicuous and until that is tackled we seem condemned to an unaffordable cycle of urban renewal. I do not believe that high rise is the answer to our housing crisis. Low and medium rise is better value and more readily deliverable in our huge tracts of suburbia. New settlements are needed and their infrastructure requires state funding and new devices to capture and locally recycle the increase in land value.
I would encourage a more empathetic vocabulary – Lasdun spoke of ‘homes’ not ‘housing’ to which I advocate a ban on ‘units’! Innovative designs only see the light of day when supported by pioneering clients with clever financing devices. The standard house builders’ development model does not encourage social or design innovation. Suburbia is the ideal context for test bed schemes and optimistically just a few nudges are needed to liberate exciting options for more people to have the security of a dignified home.
CHAPTER HOUSE Right, top: Milton Keynes Realised, Drawing by Helmut Jacoby, 1990. © Milton Keynes Development Corporation, Crown Copyright. Licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0. Image courtesy of Milt on Keynes City Discovery Centre. Right, bottom: Aerial plan of Milton Keynes indicating location of the four housing projects opposite.
Lessons Learnt from Milton Keynes
Words by David Prichard Co-founding Partner – MacCormac Jamieson Prichard & Metropolitan Workshop
Milton Keynes, the largest of the New Towns embraced numerous villages and an existing population within its original conceived kilometre square grid. During the 70’s and 80’s, MacCormac Jamieson Prichard designed ten housing schemes in these villages. The plans of four seminal ones are illustrated and described here.
Chapter House, Coffee Hall A collegiate plan was for what would nowadays be called key workers, the pioneers coming to forge the emerging community. The housing association brief typified the future residents as a mix of ‘young mobiles’ and ‘middle-aged permanents’. We responded with ground floor dual aspect conventional single bedroom flats and above them, single aspect long thin studios. The manager’s flat was above the common room and laundry, and peaceful courtyard gardens were well maintained and plenty of car parking screened by the perimeter garden wall. The construction was informed by the plan with traditional ground floor brick and block supporting the studios which were in timber frame. France Furlong, Great Linford The first village extension of mostly family homes for rent. The existing village inspired the pavement hugging short terraces of Parker Morris area ‘cottages’, with low eaves, and parking in small car courts which are the forecourt to a second band of homes. The layout sweeps round and defines a green space which was an extension to the existing village common.
too. Built in timber frame and well insulated for its time, it featured the first well-inspected vapour barrier installations, lobbies to outside doors, day rooms south facing over gardens, and service rooms with small windows on the north side. This was MK’s first hybrid D&B form of contract which they went on to perfect. Cottesford Crescent, Great Linford Framing one side of the cricket green, this was the best site in the village, hence these are 4-bed private houses for a developer. Clustered around a farmyard-like shared car court, each house is a pavilion with a shallow pyramid roof which creates sloping ceilinged living spaces and minstrel windows from bedrooms above. The scheme was featured in the 1981 Home World exhibition and the show house was fitted with telephone activated heating and kitchen systems, remote controlled curtains and blinds, and lots of other futuristic kit.
Below: Tranlands Brigg Site Plan.
Tranlands Brigg, Heelands The site was a steep south facing field with contours swinging westwards and an ancient lane on the ridge; the site strip revealed charcoal filled pits identified by the MK Archaeology team as Neolithic (4000 -2200 BC) – its orientation meant it a good place to live then! Our terraced layout contours and the ascending lane side steps around pavilions (in fact 3 homes) which have a second floor pop-up bedroom. Those ‘frog eyes’ are very distinctive, the bungalows overlooking the SW street corner have them
Above, top: Chapter House Site Plan. Above, bottom: Cottesford Crescent Site Plan. Left, top: Pyramidal roofs at Cottesford Crescent. Left, middle: Pop up bedrooms to pavilions at Tranlands Brig. Left, bottom: End Terrace at France Furlong.
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Abode at Great Kneighton Proctor & Matthews Architects
Abode at Great Kneighton
LOCATION: Cambridge CLIENT:
This mixed-tenure gateway quarter in a new neighbourhood of Cambridge, delivers a strong identity through a contemporary response to local regional settlements and the city’s rich historical context.
Stephen Proctor Founding Director, Proctor & Matthews Architects
One of the most significant obstacles to the delivery of new neighbourhood expansions is the fear from local residents and stakeholders of what Gordon Cullen referred to as “typical endless, featureless suburbia”. Too often residential developments lack character and identity and are not anchored to context. Abode at Great Kneighton was an opportunity to design a new neighbourhood quarter which was inspired by the collegiate and monastic forms of the historic centre of Cambridge and the fine grain of rural Fenland villages and towns.
CAMBRIDGE’S MONASTIC AND COLLEGIATE COURTS suggested how the site’s rural landscape could be urbanised, while further studies of typical Fenland settlements informed the more informal neighbourhood edges. Abode at Great Kneighton forms the gateway quarter to a new residential and mixed-use neighbourhood of around 2,300 new homes within the southern fringe growth area of Cambridge. The wider neighbourhood provides extensive, accessible green open space, education, sports recreation, health and community and local shopping facilities. The gateway quarter provides 444 new homes, delivering 40% of affordable housing with around 60% family sized homes to a density of over 45 dwellings per hectare. Each home delivering spatial flexibility and looking to provide a strong relationship between internal and external space facilitating the extended seasonal use of each garden, courtyard or terrace. The masterplan gives form to an existing, inherited transport and highways infrastructure of guided busway and major access road leading to the adjacent Addenbrookes Medi-park. A strong sense of arrival at the entrance to the neighbourhood is created by the introduction of a formal structured court (which visually absorbs an existing roundabout and major feeder roads). This configuration makes reference to the historic collegiate and monastic courts of Cambridge. Two five-storey apartments in the great court create pivotal townscape markers announcing the beginning of the central neighbourhood street, and are inspired by the historic collegiate gatehouses of the university colleges. Beyond the arrival court are a series of residential lanes and mews framed by the three-storey terraces of saw-toothed houses with first floor living rooms and external terraces. These flexible homes have been specifically designed to address the changing needs of 21st century living patterns and combined with back-to-back house plans (small twobedroom homes conjoined to larger family houses) help to deliver the increased densities required for a contemporary sustainable neighbourhood.
Proctor and Matthews produced a compelling and exciting concept for the ﬁrst phase of the development that takes its cue from locally historic references and that deals with number of signiﬁcant constraints and boundary conditions that exist.
Jonathan Gimblett — Associate Director, Countryside Properties
Opposite: Sketch aerial view of first phase. Right, above: Apartments overlooking the Great Court. Right, below: Sawtooth houses.
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
On the waterfront A new canalside community – Wichelstowe Plots 2 and 3 sit alongside the canal and fall within the masterplan area to the south-west of Swindon town centre.
PROJECT: Wichelstowe LOCATION: Middle Wichel, Swindon CLIENT:
THERE are 85 new homes proposed, ranging in size from 1 bedroom flats to 4 bedroom houses which are to be sold for private sale. Access to the new homes would be via new lanes running perpendicular to the canal, so that views of the canal are possible for both visitors and residents. The lanes and the communal gardens form part of the character of the new development, with the design of the homes taking influence from local buildings within Swindon as well as referencing high quality contemporary residential architecture. Each terrace is designed to have its own identity whilst being part of a coordinated and considered whole. The brief was to design homes that had the qualities that are admired in the Victorian townhouse; space, light and adaptability. Rather than the typical out-of-town semidetached home with a garage, the design of homes has a more town-like quality, with a sense of order and in terms of the streets or lanes on which the houses sit, to demonstrate an efficiency of organisation and layout that made the most use of the site, for either private dwelling space and amenity or communal amenity. Each space is to have a purpose and add to the whole. The masterplan area is bound to the south by the M4, and to the north and west by the railway. Swindonâ€™s old town sits to the north and overlooks the proposed development area. The site consists of two parcels but is considered as one site, bisected by the canal. The site topography is a significant constraint to development.
Our plan creates a layout that reinforces a sense of place by creating visual connections between the canal, the towpath, the communal gardens and from homes themselves. We envisage the towpath passing by communal gardens making them a convivial, well-used and passively surveyed. This permeability offers opportunities to physically connect the gardens with the water, further reinforcing the objective of creating a walkable neighbourhood with reduced reliance on driving. Each home will have its own private garden and terrace but will also have access to the shared communal gardens, places to gather socially and for children to play safely.
Nick Phillips â€” Project Director
Along the western side of the canal runs the canal towpath, which is at an elevated position in relation to the site. Separate proposals deal with proposed new works to the towpath including resurfacing and lighting. Beyond the towpath lies the canal. On the eastern side of the canal edge, is a protected 5m buffer zone that is to be retained as an ecological habitat for waterside plant and animal life. The canal itself is a known bat corridor and as such, will require careful monitoring of light levels so as not to disturb this use. The Wilts & Berks Canal is a unique feature that offers well-being, heritage and nature experience for visitors and residents. It has a wide range of activities for boaters, walkers, cyclists and fishermen that use the towpath, which is critical in creating green corridors that link up pieces of the habitat and connect communities. Parcels 2 and 3 are approximately 1.2ha and 1ha respectively. The layout of the two plots has been driven by the presence of the canal, with four courtyards facing onto the water, with a large communal garden at the centre of each courtyard. At either end of the site, diagonally opposite are two terraces forming bookends to the sites.
Below: Oriel corner windows frame views of the canal. Right, top: Shared court with growing spaces within the Homestead. Right, middle: View of new neighbourhood from Wilts and Berks Canal. Right,bottom: Site plan.
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Derwenthorpe Studio Partington One of the first large scale exemplar low-carbon communities in Northern England, Derwenthorpe represents an intelligent and successful response to the demands of energy efficient design and the requirements of an equitable and sustainable development.
DERWENTHORPE is a mixed tenure, exemplar sustainable community of 540 high-quality, energy efficient homes on the periphery of York. The first and second phases have been completed with the construction of phase 3 and 4 due to complete in 2019.
south facing living rooms, while maintaining high levels of daylight. On the garden side they provide a practical indoor/ outdoor space where plants can be grown, wet clothes and boots can be left, and children can play with direct access to the garden.
Embodying the ethos and legacy of the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, and following the precedent set by nearby model village New Earswick, Derwenthorpe provides a residential community that meets not only the demands of the current inhabitants but also those in the future.
Derwenthorpe is a joint venture development between the JRF/JRHT, a social landlord, and David Wilson Homes, a private developer. Undertaking the development in this way provides a mixture of tenure, with 40% being for rent and shared ownership and 60% for private sale. All houses are designed to the same standard and with the same appearance regardless of tenure. The affordable homes are ‘pepper potted’ across the whole site, avoiding grouping of tenure and promoting equality and diversity.
The development comprises two, three and four bedroom homes with areas between 84m 2 and 170m 2. The designs draw on the rich architectural legacy of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s century-old model village at nearby New Earswick. Careful choice of materials and detailing combined with large steeply pitched roofs, painted brickwork, and striking dormer windows create a distinctive sense of place. The different sized houses are used appropriately to support the urban structure and provide enclosure and continuous frontages to the streets and spaces. Larger houses are used adjacent to the surrounding open spaces, and at key points to punctuate the streetscape and terminate forward views. The smaller houses are generally used in short terraces along the homezones with the elevations varied to suit the position of the houses, for instance at gables or corners. All houses have been carefully orientated with larger windows facing south and many houses have sunspaces to maximise useful solar gain. The sunspaces act as a thermal buffer throughout the year – collecting solar energy in the winter and helping to cool the houses in the summer, providing secure ventilation at high level, and making use of the stack effect for ventilation. On the street elevations the sunspaces are also used to provide a degree of privacy to the
Prior to commencing Phase 1, two prototype houses (TAP) were developed to evaluate design, construction, and performance. The findings from the continual assessment and monitoring directly influenced the construction and detail of all 540 homes. In this way JRHT helped ensure that a large-scale sustainable community is delivered as intended and continues to perform as initially envisaged and designed. A ‘fabric first’ approach forms the basis of the sustainability strategy for the homes, which have highly efficient building fabric with good u-values, low air-permeability, and carefully controlled thermal bridging. All 540 homes will obtain their heating and hot water from the biomass-fired district heating network, housed in an on-site energy centre. Known locally as the Super Sustainable Centre (SSC), this building has a dual function as a community centre and meeting space. It provides an environment for the community to come together, for local groups to meet, and for the education of local schools and the public about sustainability, alternative energy sources,
LOCATION: Derwenthorpe, York CLIENT:
Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust
Phase 1 completed 2016, Phase 2 completed 2017, Phases 3 & 4 under construction
Richard Partington Director, Studio Partington
The first phase of the scheme is an extension to the existing village of Osbaldwick, enhancing the local community and extending Osbaldwick Village Street. Similarly the future phases connect to and extend other residential streets, thereby integrating the scheme into the existing context, rather than simply existing as a standalone development. The masterplan makes good use of the existing hedgerows to structure the site. These have been enhanced to create ecological zones and amenity spaces that thread through the development. A network of pedestrian and cycle routes cross the site allowing easy access between neighbourhoods and into the centre of York via the Sustrans cycle network.
and carbon reduction in a functioning energy centre. Visitors are able to enter the plant room and to view the operation of the biomass boilers from a first floor level viewing balcony. Energy saving measures are not limited to the design of the houses alone. The masterplan recognises the importance of streets as places for social interaction, using homezones and mews courtyards to limit access for cars and to prioritise pedestrians. The site is well connected to York City Centre via a dedicated Sustrans path, helping to promote cycling and walking over the use of private cars. All residents are provided with a travel voucher to assist with purchasing a bike or a free bus pass, an electric car club provides the opportunity to use a car by the hour, and an electric bus service also runs from Derwenthorpe into the centre of York. An important feature of the development is the quality of the streets and public spaces that have been created through a collaborative relationship with the highways and planning officers. The intention to create a pedestrian priority and child friendly environment, was foremost in design discussions. A commitment to the environment is shown in the landscape design. When complete, a third of the site will be comprised of beautifully conceived landscape, which will conserve ancient hedgerows and species-rich grassland as well as providing wildflower meadows and an enhanced wetland habitat to support great crested newts. The Jubilee Pond, at the heart of Derwenthorpe, provides a safe environment for the breeding of ducks, geese, and other wildlife new to the area. The pond is also a key part of the sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS), and helps to mitigate against flooding and control water flow into Osbaldwick beck.
Above, top: View from over the pond. Above, middle: Site plan indicating 1st phase. Right: Inside house with sunspace. Far right: Resident relaxing in their garden.
The quality landscaping and the pedestrianised design of the estate all add to a sense of joy and well-being. This is a genuinely inspirational space to live
Paul Black â€” Derwenthorpe resident
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
The origins of the Semi-D FROM JOHN SHAW’S Provost Road semis in Camden of 1844 and Richard Norman Shaw’s Bedford Park estate of 1877 (Figure 1), to those designed by Alison Brooks Architects and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios as part of the Accordia development in Cambridge, the semi-detached house borrows from and shares its status with its neighbour. Around a third of the UK population chooses to live in a semidetached property, so this is a house type that seems to suit British taste.1 What makes it so popular? ‘The English all want to live in their own private little box with their own little bit of green. And underlying that, the feeling of privacy and the middle-class tendency to keep ourselves to ourselves … to go home, shut the door and pull up the drawbridge’, says Kate Fox in Watching the English (2005). In the depression of the 1920s, speculative builders created an alternative to the generously proportioned houses of the Edwardian era (around 84m2), at a time when average family sizes were decreasing – as was the affordability of servants. Many disdained the stifling repetitiveness – road upon endless road and cul-de-sac of pitchedroof monotony – of the new suburban estates for the aspiring lower and middle of the middle classes. In Outrage: On the Disfigurement of Town and Countryside (1959), Ian Nairn expressed his view that the semi-detached house and the suburbia it produced were ordinary at best, and at worst, substandard development produced by failures in planning to foster high-quality, characterful places; they were the face of speculative developers’ greed. Builders consequently became eager to stress the uniqueness of their estates as often as they could, and buyers wanted individuality, but also to be part of a community in which their dwelling did not set them apart. They were offered a wide range of styles, with Tudorbethan timber work, some with Art Deco leanings, and Modernist versions with names such as Sunspan and Suntrap. The eponymous Class 3 semi, as defined by Finn Jensen in Modernist Semis and Terraces in England (2016), came with or without gabled, M-shaped or flat roofs, or bay windows. Owners could personalise front doors
with paint, install stained glass to the hall window and hang a romantic name (Dunroamin) over the door. Ubiquitous and stylish Almost half of all homes built in the inter-war period (1.8 million) were semidetached,2 and soon the monotony of the pattern-book house was much criticised. The typology was highly successful mainly because the large plots it used meant solar access was much better than that of a terraced house, while its increment allowed it to flow over the undulating countryside that it was built on. The semi-d has become synonymous with UK suburban life. The type is enduringly popular with the working and middle classes. It is economical and flexible. It uses less land than detached houses and is cheaper to construct, primarily thanks to the sharing of a party wall. It provides easy access to rear gardens and most have a front garden producing a green street scene. Recently, these have been crazy-paved over to accommodate two or more cars. Some ethnic-minority communities have built bulk food stores or home offices in their long back gardens and flat-roof additions have been erected to create very large family rooms, or two to three new bedrooms in a new attic floor. In some cases, the three-bed, five-person semi has been reconstructed to become a six-bed, eleven-person house with twice the original 84m2 floor area. More than two-thirds of the Housing Manual pattern book published by the Department of Health in 1919 were semidetached typologies,3 but land prices and building regulations contributed to the decline of the semi-detached house in the 1960s and ’70s, as have changing structures of society with more of us now living alone. Yet British people have embraced the semi-d like those of no other European country – a so far unexplained and interesting cultural phenomenon. Anatomy Semi-detached houses originally gave the appearance of a larger house. Entrances were combined at the centre of the plan with hall-to-hall layouts providing acoustic separation between habitable rooms. Soon, however, halls and entrance were placed
Words by Neil Deely Co-founding Partner – Metropolitan Workshop
to the outside of the plan, as many owners and their wives (who were at home during the day), were content not to exchange pleasantries with their neighbours every time they used the front door.
making a resurgence. In 2016, 151,687 new properties were registered with the NHBC, with semi-detached houses rising from around 14,969 homes in 2008 to 38,999 homes in 2016, some 26% of registrations.4
The universal 1920s speculative semi-d comprised a hall and stair which led to the kitchen, off which a small larder was sometimes provided. Up a dog-leg staircase were two double bedrooms and a single bedroom, all entered from a short landing; a bathroom and separate WC (in later versions) with small side windows taking up the rear corner. The ground-floor parlour at the front was given a grand bay window. This room was for receiving guests, tending to a sick family member and for study. Front and rear gardens were fitted with sundials, rose beds and goldfish ponds, and sometimes the side passage was used to install a prefabricated garage.
Part of the reason for this is that the semidetached house, though more commonly associated with private ownership and speculative development, offers opportunities for creating ‘tenure-blindness’ – a better social mix of social, affordable and owner-occupied homes – in estate design that other typologies are unable to match. It offers greater opportunities for privacy and later adaption than the terrace.
What remains interesting is the extent to which this ‘prix fixe’ formula has been endlessly customised, in a way rarely possible with other house types. Neither architecturally designed, nor made acceptable by tradition, the type is now
Below, bottom: Figure 1: Woodstock Road, Bedford Park: Norman Shaw’s drawings.
Developers like this typology for the same reasons as ever; the semi-d has the advantage of providing access to the garden without going through the house, and it remains less land hungry than detached houses (beloved by housebuilders but which may only be 2 metres apart); work rooms can be built at the back of the garden; while the flank wall provides the opportunity to get light into the middle of the house, allow natural ventilation to bathrooms and easily incorporate car parking and/or garages.
1. Chris Randall, Housing: Social Trends 41, Newport 2011, p. 4 2. Finn Jensen, The English Semi-Detached House, Huntingdon 2007 3. Local Government Board, Housing Manual: 1919, London 1919 4. NHBC, New Homes Statistics Review: 2016, London 2016 Left: Figures 2a&b: The Y-form - a new plan form for semidetached housing by Metropolitan Workshop showing ground-floor plan as well as possible street arrangement. Below, top: Figure 3: Semi-detached cabins at North Lane, Aldershot by Sergison Bates. Below, bottom: Figure 4: The Painted House, North london by Jonathan Woolf.
Emerging Trends Metropolitan Workshop recently devised a new model for the semi-d, which also illustrates this degree of flexibility. The Y-form scheme features a butterfly plan, where two or four wings of a house are constructed at an angle to the core, usually at approximately 45º to the wall of the core building. Its advantage, apparent in the alternative name, ‘double suntrap plan’, is an increased number of aspects (Figures 2a&b). Designing for a corner site, the Y-form creates different visual expressions depending on the orientation of the ‘core’, which can face in or out. In a more urban setting, the Y-form could run along a street so that the appearance is that of dual-aspect terraced houses with the benefit of access to the back garden. It can offer a similar or higher density than a traditional terrace, but with multiple aspects. This, with the two case studies that follow, demonstrates the direction that the resurgent semi-d is going, with flexibility an integral part of its value.
In Aldershot the semi-detached houses by Sergison Bates masquerade as cabins in the woods. Their brick elevations and single, brick chimney stacks masterfully disguising this pair of interlocked houses as a single, more generous detached villa in space. True to the original Semi-D’s powers of deception. The Guts in New Islington in Manchester, Mae have turned their conjoined semis through 90 degrees and perpendicular to the street to form small courtyard gardens, an interesting hybrid of a semi and a backto-back. It demonstrates that the semi is far from dead and is enjoying new, higher density reincarnations. At Painted House in London, the late Jonathan Woolf makes a pair of semis honest by creating one house from two and recasting both the exterior and interiors with a modernist, minimalist palette of greys, whites and sober tones stripped or ornate or craft. The 20th Century semidetached shells that lie beneath have been transported to the 21st Century.
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
Umpire View Sarah Wigglesworth Architects This modest housing development in Harrow shows how simple yet distinctive design can rethink the ubiquitous suburban home. The project includes twenty seven new homes for Notting Hill Housing Trust on part of a disused greenfield site adjacent to the local Church, Vicarage and Church Hall.
THIS SMALL DEVELOPMENT of 27 flats and houses represents an example of suburban densification that is becoming increasingly prevalent as our need for more housing places pressure on the outskirts of our towns and cities. The project is located in Harrow, North West London, an area that was developed in the early years of the twentieth century as new transport links opened up land on the city’s outskirts (Metroland). To complement these homes, a new church and church hall, together with a community open space, were constructed. A century later, this open space was identified as suitable for development. The potential loss of green outdoor area was a contentious issue in the outline planning application, but the consented project preserved and improved it, making it the centrepiece for the new community. SWA progressed this scheme of 27 houses and flats with outline planning consent to completion, a process that included the submission of a reserved matters application. Working with client Notting Hill Housing, the Local Authority and Church of England landowners, the scheme seeks to contribute a new streetscape that is sympathetic to the area’s Edwardian houses whilst providing simple and robust mixed tenure homes that are distinguished by their use of contemporary brickwork, careful detailing and coloured doors and windows. The project strives to raise a conventional suburban outline scheme into a quietly unique place set along a strongly articulated new streetscape. A critical issue was to integrate the new development with the existing community, both spatially and socially. This included the design of a new children’s playground for the nursery and upgrades to the Vicarage. The improved open space aims to serve the everyone and its maintenance has now been adopted by the Local Authority. A nearby scout hut and early years centre bring foot traffic close, but the open space is in a cul-de-sac, meaning its use is intentional rather than casual. The desire was for a low rise, conventional arrangement of homes arranged around the green space, and the scheme achieves a density of 43 dwellings per hectare.
SWA aims to build sustainably and with future needs in mind, and we hoped to use our research into prefabricated modular housing for another housing provider as a central plank of the construction of the dwellings for Umpire View. However, costs are a perennial issue in the capital and the budget was challenging for the design team. With a small number of units, our aims proved uneconomic and construction, delivered under a D&B contract, comprised load bearing blockwork walls clad in brick (supplemented with minor steel elements), since it offered the cheapest type of construction. Trussed rafters form the structure of the roof space. Our practice’s desire is to make adaptable and flexible homes suitable for people of all ages, lifestyles and means. However, bowing to pressure to resist further densification upwards, the planning authority made the impossibility of doing so a condition of their approval by removing all permitted development rights. The area is poorly served by public transport (PTAL 1b) and the integration of car parking into the scheme required careful coordination so that the public realm remained of high quality and was clearly signalled as dedicated to pedestrians. Each dwelling has private cycle parking and there is a communal cycle park for the flats. It remains an unfulfilled ambition of ours to nudge behaviour towards better uptake of self-propelled transport options such as walking and cycling, together with the infrastructure such as cycle storage hubs at rail stations in order to shift our modalities towards carbon-efficient transit options and a healthier, active lifestyle. Efforts have been made to build community ties through twinning the porches of adjacent houses and shared driveways, with resting benches in front of the dwellings that conceal the usual meter boxes. Street trees are used to create shade and provide identity for the project, which also incorporates simple decorative elements (colour, projecting headers, gable fronts) achievable within the budget.
LOCATION: Harrow, Middlesex CLIENT:
Notting Hill Housing
Completed September 2017
0.64 ha (inc. green space - 1.32ha)
27 homes (12no. houses & 15no. ﬂats)
Toby Carr Associate, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
With pressure to find more land for homes and address issues of climate change it is essential that the built environment responds with increased densities of resilient, long lasting, adaptable solutions that are lean, healthy and energy efficient. This project edges gingery towards this goal, but it also shows the many aspects that still need addressing with vision, focus and a lot of dedication if we are genuinely to create A New Kind of Suburbia.
Opposite, top left: House elevation bay studies. Opposite, top right: Illustrative view looking south over the new public park. Opposite, bottom: Semi-detached houses at Umpire View © Tim Smyth.
PROSPECTS #01 â€” A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
STORIES OF SUBURBIA
SUBURBIA MAKING ARCHITECTS
Editor Dhruv Adam Sookhoo, Head of Research and Practice Innovation Practice Contributors Tom Mitchell Jonny McKenna Richard Robinson Federica Filippone Gareth Bansor Ewan Cooper
Collectively our suburbanite contributors accounts speak to several experiences that influence their conceptualization of suburbia and the potentials it affords with relevance for our shared creative endeavour within the practice. These salient aspects include: the use of communal gardening as a means of creating communities and friendships (Richard Robinson), the role of play within new towns to generate and sustain a sense of community (Tom Mitchell), the use of green infrastructure to encourage active lifestyles for suburban residents (Gareth Bansor), and the need to foster a sense of home within suburbs as we address future technical challenges (Jonny McKenna). Further afield, the role of the architect as a facilitator of suburban placemaking is considered in relation to the formalization and development of the suburbs surrounding Brasilia (Federica Filippone). As the programme progresses these accounts will be supplemented by further contributions from within the studio and by external contributors. As with suburbs themselves, these personal accounts provide a humane, interpretative grounding for the expert enquiry to be pursued through other aspects of the A New Kind of Suburbia programme.
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
STORIES OF SUBURBIA
COMMUNITY THROUGH PLAY TOM MITCHELL
Suburb: Crawley, West Sussex I HAVE LIVED IN CRAWLEY since birth. It’s a new town, which both my parents moved to separately in the 1950s and early 1960s. I have very fond memories growing up there, not only because my parents gave me roaming freedoms unimaginable today, but also because of the way the New Town was planned. Children had access to landscapes and play facilities sadly missing in almost all housing development today. I grew up in a standard 3-bed end of terrace house in Gossops Green, one of the original new town neighbourhoods. It was the most common of the house types in the neighbourhood, whose layout was characterised by long, sweeping terraces, with homes set well back from the street to leave plenty of space for landscape. Designed following traditional Garden
Suburb principles, the road patterns often followed historic routes and retained the most valuable landscape assets. This not only created a beautiful neighbourhood setting – it also meant that you were never far from a climbable tree or a mini-wood, with lots of opportunities for camp-building.
Each one was open from 4pm to 7pm weekdays during term time, and from 10am to 6pm on Saturdays and school holidays. Every summer, inter-centre tournaments were held for football, netball and rounders, all of which helped to forge strong, but lighthearted neighbourhood allegiances.
Built predominantly by the Crawley Development Corporation from 1958, Gossops Green only had a relatively small amount of wholly private housing which was generally concentrated around the edges of the neighbourhood and delivered a decade later. For the most part, the Development Corporation delivered an undetectable mix of private and council homes. This meant we grew up and mixed with people from all parts of the social spectrum, and were never aware of the social status of those in our circle. Privately owned homes only started to become more obvious during the early 1980s, with the advent of double glazing.
Sadly, most of the Playcentres and youth clubs are now closed, and their buildings demolished with little warning. Taking a short cut home across the park one evening in the summer of 1994, I unexpectedly stumbled across the empty site of my local Playcentre. I was utterly dumbstruck and felt a real sense of loss. I know I wasn’t alone.
From the age of six, I was able to roam with my older friends throughout the neighbourhood, which included two parks, a big lake, a river, woods, several copses, local shops (all great for games), a nearby youth centre and a Playcentre. Located in the neighbourhood park, only three minutes walk from our house, our Playcentre was a prefabricated single-storey social hub which offered snooker, pool, table tennis, board games, refreshments and a modest selection of arcade games. The Playcentres catered for children between five and sixteen, and was crucial to building friendships in every neighbourhood in the new town.
Below: Gossops Green F.C. - Winners are Grinners!
Diversity of tenure, mature incidental landscape character and the mixture of community uses were crucial to the success of those early Crawley neighbourhoods – and my experience of growing there has had a lasting impact on my personal and professional life. It has made me a strong advocate of diverse tenure integration and collaborative design with local communities. It’s also given me an appreciation for the crucial importance of community uses in residential masterplanning. These values underpin our work with Nationwide at Oakfield, Swindon, where a community-led masterplan for 239 homes is supported by a resident’s hub, café, a new park, communal gardens, incidental landscaped squares and a strong architectural identity derived from Swindon’s industrial heritage. I hope that this new neighbourhood is as influential on its residents and remembered as fondly as my own.
Tom Mitchell Associate Director, Metropolitan Workshop
Tom Mitchell is Associate Director at Metropolitan Workshop, having been with the practice since its inception in 2005. He has contributed to the design and development of several suburban projects, including Roding Lane (London Borough of Redbridge), Sunleigh Road (London Borough of Brent) and Oakfield (Swindon). Tom was instrumental in the development of the successful Wates/ RIBA Private Rented Sector Ideas Competition entry, which proposed a more socially purposeful allocation of land for communal gardens, allotments and recreation alongside retail and workspaces, as a new form of suburbia offering advantages for investors and residents alike.
STORIES OF SUBURBIA
BALLY– SUBURBIA JONNY MCKENNA
Suburb: Ballinteer, Dublin I GREW UP IN A SUBURB called Ballinteer. The edge of our estate was the beginning of the Dublin Mountains. There wasn’t a brick, or more fittingly, a pebble-dashed rendered block beyond. I was raised during a period of significant migration to Dublin from the countryside. It seemed everyone who grew up on my estate had at least one parent with a rural background, perhaps lured to suburbia in part by its watered-down version of the garden city ideal that offered proximity to the urban centre and an echo of a familiar rural setting. In this way they differed from the inner suburbs of Crumlin and Finglas which were largely built to aid inner city slum clearance. This suburban population growth was not lost on the schoolyard wags who used to joke: Why is Ireland’s capital the biggest city in the world? Because the population keeps Dub-lin, and Dub-lin, and Dub-lin. The punchline would ring truer if its subject had been the proliferation of suburbs, so critical were they to the accommodation of the city’s increasing numbers. Today, Ballinteer has been encircled by the M50 motorway. It is now considered an established community with newer estates beyond however the natural boundary of the mountains has, for now, halted Dublin’s southerly push, forcing suburbia to spread westward instead. There are over a thousand houses on my estate (I still claim some sort of ownership as my parents still live there). Most houses looked the same, a mix of three- or four-bedroom semi-detached homes typical of any suburban housing estate in Dublin. Mostly pebble dashed they represent an uncelebrated style in a period of transformative Irish homebuilding. The striking uniformity of housing across Ballinteer and its sister estates has resulted in a demographic lacking diversity. It was mostly young families who flooded into the new neighbourhoods in the 70s and as children got old enough and left home their parents remained. For some years, an elderly population dominated the estates, before being replaced by new families again. As an architect this offered an early lesson on
the need for a varied tenure mix to achieve sustainable communities and ensure vitality. How can we create new suburbs, or intensify existing ones, which respond to demographic and social need when the pressure often comes from maximising efficiency by generating easily repeatable forms which may not offer ideal accommodation for everyone? My childhood experience seems to reflect wider trends towards the suburban in Dublin during the period. Fittingly, I went to a suburban university. University College Dublin unthinkably abandoned the city in the 1960s in favour of the leafy, if brutalist, Wejchert Architect designed sprawling campus. The idea of presenting an alternative version of suburbia was not really on anyone’s agenda during the late 90s and early 00s. The priority was to repair Dublin’s core (see Group 91’s work at temple Bar for example), which had been largely overlooked during the relentless drive outwards however twenty years on the focus has shifted. The generation who were raised in suburbia during the 1970s and 80s are now turning their attention to how a future suburbia might be for the next generation. Polycentric development and densification are on the agenda, but there is a lot of heads buried deeply in sand when it comes to acknowledging that making a success of increased residential density requires an integrated strategy for multimodal transportation.
Above: Aerial View of Ballinteer Estate. Below: View of street in Ballinteer Estate with mountains beyond.
We are still very wedded to the car which is inevitably the hot ticket item at most consultation events. If we expect new developments to have denser configurations with reduced car numbers this has to be balanced by improved, viable alternates to transportation (for example our work on the Sword’s expansion plan from a population of 40,000 to 100,000 largely hung of the delivery of Metro North). Thinking about and delivering on these larger-scale issues is not easy, especially when it involves questioning what dominant forms of suburbia offer now and considering new kinds of suburbia for future Dubliners. This may mean disrupting current, entrenched methods of production. Challenges and opportunities presented by the suburban way of life is so taken for granted, that change is likely to take a long time to happen: years, decades and in some cases generations. We all (architects, developers, citizens and politicians) need to work, very hard, to collectively take on the difficult issues ensuring we create new, interesting and diverse suburban places while successfully reviving old ones. In rising to this challenge, we must not lose sight of why we do this and what a suburb should be. Like many other Dublin suburbs (Ballyfermot, Ballbrigan, Balgriffin, Ballybrack, Ballymun), Ballinteer takes its name from the anglicised version of an Irish name: Baile an tSaoir. In the Irish language Baile means Home.
Jonny McKenna Director – Dublin Office, Metropolitan Workshop
Jonny McKenna, joined Metropolitan Workshop in 2006, becoming Director of the Dublin studio in [insert 2017?]. As an architect and urban designer he has played a leading role in co-ordinating large-scale multidisciplinary teams to deliver masterplans in sensitive urban and suburban contexts such as the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Masterplan and the Swindon Town Delivery Plan. He is currently working on town renewal plans for Kildare and Newbridge, residential led masterplanning schemes for Clonburris Strategic Development Zone and a housing scheme in Ranelagh.
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
STORIES OF SUBURBIA
A CONVIVIAL COMMUNITY RICHARD ROBINSON
the same time as the Span Houses, and they follow a similar model based on solid party walls and flexible internal partitions. Ours has a separate kitchen and dining room on the ground floor, a lounge, bedroom and bathroom on the first floor and two further bedrooms and a bathroom on the top floor. Some of the houses have been built, or been converted to have the larger front bedroom split into two. Others have an extra room on the ground floor used as a study. The garages for these houses are all grouped together by the entrance to the road and double stacked, making use of the change in level by being accessed from either side. The other house type is entered from the ground floor at the front with toilet and integral garage, kitchen and living space are on the first floor with level access to the garden at the rear, with two bedrooms and bathroom above.
Below: The new extension - Joint 3rd in the NLA’s Don’t Move, Improve! competition (2019)
There are several features of our house that made the decision to extend rather than move that bit easier. High ceilings, full width windows with lots of natural light, and no load bearing internal walls made it easier for us to change things around. We are an end of terrace and had a small wedge-shaped space to the side of the house that we had been using for a shed but that always seemed to offer some greater potential. Because of the way the rows of terraces relate to each other and work their way up the hill the footpath to the houses along the side of ours is 1.2m higher than the floor level, so we could hide a big volume behind a retaining wall. We kept to single storey to reduce the impact on our neighbours and to make planning easier. The wedge-shaped plan has led to an interesting folded roof form and the opportunity for extra light from a new rooflight. The extension means that our two boys now have their own room with a study/ guest room on the ground floor. We also have a separate utility room for doing the washing, and a ground floor cloakroom that means my parents don’t have to tackle the stairs when they visit.
Suburb: Forest Hill, South London I LOVE MY STREET. We have lived in this three storey townhouse since 2006. We are at the top of a hill, so we have distant views over South London, looking East and into Kent. We are awoken by the sunrise with light streaming into the bedroom. There are no views to the West, as the garden backs onto a Victorian garden wall and tall, mature trees. Our home is the end terrace stepping down the hill, overlooking the mount, a small, sloping communal green space with a few trees.
summer BBQ and bonfire night, along with the close proximity of our homes ensures that everyone knows everyone, just enough to make a strong community with some getting more involved than others. Lots of us have children of a similar age and share childcare. Many work in the creative industries and a number, but not all, share similarities in age, broad political outlook and world view. Some have lived here for thirty plus years and others’ less than one. In short there is enough of a mix to keep things interesting and we like our neighbours. Perhaps there is a type drawn to houses of this age and style?
The common parts of the estate are owned and managed communally by all 31 households. We pay a small monthly service charge for gardening, maintenance and repairs, and crucially there is a management committee made up of residents. The AGM,
The steep slope of the site creates a character of its own. There are two repeated housing types within the same broadly 5m x 8m footprint all arranged as terraces of between five and eight homes. There is one flat above a row of garages. The estate was built at around
Until I wrote this article, I hadn’t really thought about what suburbia means to me. What has become apparent is that for me suburban living is about living in relatively close proximity to people that I both know and like. We have our own space but the physical openness of the houses, the layout of the terraces, the relatively small number of homes, and the shared external areas means that small, informal interactions most importantly in person, but also more recently through various forms of social media, are easy and part of every-day life. There is also something familiar with my early experiences of living in suburbia. My first home was an interwar semi-detached house with bay windows in Birmingham, where I knew every child on the street, as my children do now. At eight, we moved to a brand new housing estate, on a cul-de-sac, next to the primary school I attended. We knew everyone on the street here too. Only last year my parents downsized after nearly 40 years – and some of the original owners still live there!
Richard Robinson Studio Manager, Metropolitan Workshop
Richard has worked in architecture and communication for the last twenty years. As Studio Manager, he is responsible for improving the appearance and operation of the office, organising social events and ensuring that staff are having fun! Previously he worked at MJP Architects, and Design for Homes. Richard enjoys dinghy sailing and gardening. He designed and built a shed to house a bicycle-powered radio station and a recycled plastic bottle greenhouse at his local primary school and helped construct two green oak timber-framed buildings at the local nature reserve.
STORIES OF SUBURBIA
CIDADE DA SEGREGACÃO ━ CITY OF SEGREGATION FEDERICA FILIPPONE
‘Above: Aqui podia morar gente’ (People could live here), a famous recurring mural in Brazil originating in Salvador de Bahia in reference to the housing issues all over the country.
I LOVED BRASILIA, it is a city that is so unique and exceptional. The city is a one-off, following unusual suburban and rural development processes, and was populated only by migrants, coming from all Brazilian cities and surrounding rural areas. First, they came to physically build the city and then moved there hoping for a quality of life. However, for many people after a few years, Brasilia revealed itself to be a let-down. Instead of becoming a city of hope, it became expensive and unlivable, because of it being the paradigm of modern city. Planned in accordance with Modern Movement concepts, it was a celebration of motorways and cars - which were a necessity for residents, at least those that could afford them. Despite the planned social-egalitarian attempt, the representative Brazilian city was arguably only affordable for politicians and their families, for public officials and well-off Brazilian people. Because of this, after a few years, poorer Brasilienses (habitants of Brasilia) opted to move to initially unplanned satellite cities bordering the Capital. These so-called cidades satellites and assentamentos rurais are the results of outward migration from the Federal District. So permanent have these informal settlements become, that they have become officially recognized with sponsorship from government institutions, after considerable pressure from their citizens. Suburban cities like Ceilândia, Taguatinga, Planaltina
represent residents’ search for more traditional and economically accessible cities. Unfortunately, their informal planning contributes to generate violence, criminality, hunger and poverty.
These social bonds also have potential to improve individual well-being and give meaning to individual achievements.
Brasilia expanded considerably to accommodate its vast green spaces resulting in the public transport required to connect the cidades satellites to the capital became so expensive. This produced a clear segregation between those with money and those without. This social segregation is a peculiarity of every Brazilian city, but in this case, it is still more evident as it happens between different cities and not within boroughs, like Rocicha and Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro. The process of outward migration has been so consistent that Ceilândia is now a city of 400,000 inhabitants, Taguatinga, 220,000 inhabitants, and so on.
The key and the challenge to intervene as architects and planners lies precisely in being able to build on the sense of responsibility within the community. Thus architects can help by listening to those who live there and using their expertise to participate in their struggle. What is at stake is giving communities with a self-defined structure the opportunity to shape their own suburban environment, and contribute to a fairer city. Witnessing the lived realities of the Brasilienses and the organically developed cities they have created with determination and love, without the concern and interference of architects and planners, was formative. What this reaffirms is that the life of the city, so complex and compromised, presupposes the design.
Nevertheless, the social marginalisation has given rise to strong, cohesive communities that share difficulties and uncertainties. The realities of living here have produced a spontaneous desire of togetherness to compensate for the basic insecurity that is the paradigm of the place. The perception of similarity, interdependence and belonging to a social structure creates a strong community that people need to be a part of to manage their uncertain conditions.
In the UK there is a sense that in an urban context the architect is a facilitator of community visions. The community is encouraged to engage with the architect in the developing urban and social agenda. This underlines the importance of the role of the architect in the community, given their complex of working with existing communities and integrating new and old; a role that is a powerful vehicle for social integration.
Federica Filippone Architect, Metropolitan Workshop
Federica Filippone joined Metropolitan Workshop in 2018 having trained in Italy and Brazil. Her thesis work, JuntARQ: aiming to find a new way of living Brazilian rural settlement examined the marginalisation of rural poor communities around Brasilia, was selected for the Archiprix International 2017 and YTA Award. She has practiced in Italy as an architect working on housing and with
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
STORIES OF SUBURBIA
SUBURBIA IN THE LEISURE PENINSULA GARETH BANSOR
Above: Site Plan of Birkenhead Park, designed by Joseph Paxton and opened in 1847.
Suburb: Greasby, Wirral I GREW UP in Greasby on the Wirral. Since moving to London in 2012 I have lost count of the times I have had to provide an accompanying geographical location for my origins. I have progressed from “it’s near Liverpool, over the River Mersey” to settling on ‘continental scouse’, the Gulf Stream warms the water you know! “Oh,posh scouse?!”, often followed by “eh, eh, calm down…”, is the nearinevitable reply. The Wirral is for the most part, idyllic. A hidden gem. Often beset by the bad publicity of its eastern edge. Towns like Birkenhead have suffered greatly over the last fifty years due to the constant decline of the Port of Liverpool. Away from this urban edge the suburban settlements are surrounded by green: woods, farmland, parks, and a beautiful coastline. Greasby is inland, a belt of farmland separating the village to the south and west from surrounding villages. This also includes Arrowe Country Park, with its brook and wood added by the Birkenhead Corporation for public recreation in the 1920s. The wood remains today weaving along the estate on which I grew up and accounted for many a lost Sunday afternoon searching for its endangered newts. This park is only one example of the municipal authority’s investment in the health and wellbeing of the new suburban residents. The more famous and urban Birkenhead Park, designed by Paxton and opened in 1847, was the first publicly funded civic park in the world and its design influenced Central Park in New York. Post-war suburban expansion would see development on previously agricultural land with Greasby becoming contiguous with the nearby settlements of Moreton,
Upton and Woodchurch to the north and east. This suburban neighbourhood served a few significant manufacturing plants, like Champion Spark Plugs, and would expand further due to its easy commute to Liverpool. My childhood home was within one of these post-war residential developments, at the end of Caulfield Drive. A three-bedroom semi that benefited from being on a corner plot. It had a generous front and rear garden, with a walled running between. Ideal for warring brothers needing some alone time to cool off. Built for private sale by speculative builders there was very little variety in typology within the estate. Most homes were identical: simple brick boxes with pitched roofs. Their bay windows were possibly the only architectural feature of note. Their connected garages a nod to growing car ownership and the developer’s aspiration to appeal to a more middle-class market. Space was really what your money got (100+ m2). Living spaces were cellular, but large and dual aspect. Sun glare on the TV throughout the whole day, is how I remember my living room and naturally, a serving hatch between the kitchen and dining room. Today that dividing wall would be the first thing to go if it were to appear on Love it or List it (I’m made to watch it, honest!). The hallway too was generous. Large enough to swing a dog (we didn’t have a cat) and on a cold winter’s morning sit against the storage heater and eat a bowl of Shreddies before school. Upstairs two large bedrooms, a box room for the youngest member of the family, and bathroom with separate WC. - where have they gone today? Well into the bathroom to save space. Not to forget an airing cupboard, shelves full of towels and bedding- ideal as a makeshift ladder to the loft hideout. Most of my memories of the home relate to the freedoms I enjoyed as a young child; just how easily and safely I could venture
from home. The rear garden backed onto Coronation Park, which no doubt facilitated my passion for sport. It proved the perfect setting to meet friends and a reconcile with my brother after school for a kick about, rounders or game of man hunt. So much fun from a simple expanse of grass. Allotments, bowling greens, tennis courts to its periphery encouraged a wider mix of ages, so all could get the best out of the park. Once old enough and proficient in looking both ways, crossing one quiet road also unlocked much more, full access to the shops. Haircuts and sweets on tap! The estate was simple, but well planned. Drives, not cul-de-sacs, maintained a legibility in a street pattern with simple routes in and out. The park served as its heart with additional green space at each street junction provided further places to dwell, or less optimistically youths to congregate. But definitely green visual respite from the surrounding black tarmac. All drives led towards the well-equipped run of local shops celebrated with a little square that formed the main gateway into the estate. I have fond memories of Greasby, and feel very fortunate to have had my own park. All children should have their park. My childhood in Greasby has undoubtedly influenced my professional outlook, making me realise the importance of access to shared, usable green space within residential design. It’s essential for encouraging healthy lifestyles and inclusive neighbourhoods. Today, it’s a key principle within every residential project we design in the practice, sometimes forming the core element within our vision for a new residential place. We describe the lifestyle offered to residents of our scheme at Campbell Park North, Milton Keynes as Living in the Park.
Gareth Bansor Senior Associate, Metropolitan Workshop
Gareth Bansor is Senior Associate at Metropolitan Workshop. He has contributed to the design and development of several suburban projects, including Gondar Gardens (London Borough of Camden) and Campbell Park North (Milton Keynes). Gareth is also leading the team developing a new suite of suburban modular homes for Engie, which work within a flexible homestead framework providing variety of house typologies with a hierarchy of shared landscapes including communal gardens, squares, courts and yards.
STORIES OF SUBURBIA
THE OTHER WAY IS ESSEX: THE SUBURB AND ITS SOCIAL POTENTIALS EWAN COOPER
Suburb: Leigh-on-Sea, Essex “I would like there to exist places that are stable, unmoving, intangible, untouched and almost untouchable, unchanging, deep rooted; places that might be points of reference, of departure, of origin.” Georges Perec (1974:91) “For our house is our first corner of the world. As has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word.” Gaston Bachelard (1992:4) IN 1997, I left Leigh-on-Sea, a sprawling Essex suburb on the Thames Estuary. I moved to London, to the first of many student flats, in whichever corner of the City suited my work and life as I studied and practiced interior design and architecture. Apart from a brief return to ‘Leigh’ for a job in 2001, I lived in London for nearly twelve years. My time there lead me to meet my wife while working for our diploma at what was then (appropriately) called ‘The London Met’. Two more moves down the line, we set up home in a small, but decent three bedroom terraced house in Noel Park. Wedged between Wood Green High Street and the North Circular, Noel Park is just about ‘in’
London. However it meant we could cycle to work in the centre, while enjoying city life, and yet we had enough room and money left to knock the house into shape and start a family. Now our daughter, Florence, is two and a half. I am writing this in my large new kitchendiner, overlooking a relatively big garden in my new house, back in Leigh-on-Sea, just a few streets from where I grew up. Our new home is yards from the Belton Hills Nature Reserve (we used to call it ‘Leigh Cliffs’), where I used to make dens in the summer and ride sledges in the winter. Returning to the suburb that I called home as a child has given my family a chance to rekindle lost connections, but importantly build new relationships with our neighbours and form friendships with the other young families that surround us. We are putting down deep roots, binding us to the place and affirming our decision to relocate. But as I start to unpick the decision to return to the suburbs, it occurs to me that there may be fundamental reasons for returning that are beyond the prosaic and inevitable forces, which pull at young, working families. My mother cares for Florence during the three days that my wife and I are at work, which is great for everyone. But we could have paid for childcare. We have a bigger house because money goes further and the air is undoubtedly cleaner but there are compromises – usually in the form of a kind of cultural deficit. It is possible, however, that there is something hidden in our decisionmaking that connects to a primal and deeper need, that London (or at least our corner of it) was unable to offer us. It is certainly the responsibility of an architect that designs for both the city and the suburb to interrogate these lived realities in the hope of revealing any possible fundamental value of each condition in the hope of becoming a better designer. Our old home at Noel Park (London Borough of Haringey) was built at the end of the nineteenth century by The Artisans, Labourers & General Dwellings Company, a puritanical Christian organisation behind several of the Victorian garden estates. The planned community consisted of two thousand houses, a church a school, and (critically) no pub. While the houses were well-built and there are beautiful moments in the bricks and turrets, with several attractive decorative features there was something missing socially that the absence of a pub hints at. This missing social element and the potential of suburbia to support a family-centred life is what drove us to sell up in search of the latent beauty of the suburbs. As an architect, I am aware that our new home may be considered less attractive or of less architectural merit than our old home in Noel Park. But this might be irrelevant when set against the potential of our new home and new neighbourhood as an adaptable shell
and place full of potential for our imagined future. Our walk-in-wardrobe has become a place for Florence to hide, her imagination is sparked by the shoe boxes, the domestic debris and the dark folds of the coats. The houses in our street are separated in, some cases by garages or side gardens, in ours by a shared alleyway. Will this become the place for new adventures and exploration by our daughter and our neighbour’s young son? The places for discovery extend beyond the end of the street and the cliffs to the shops and schools and swimming pools and gyms, and yes, pubs! The public house is a propagator for friendships and communities, and like all the others in the street, adaptable, robust, domestic and welcoming. It is a meeting place, a performance venue, a place to celebrate, to confront, to grieve and to console, a room for succour. Our suburban home, street and wider neighbourhood, centred on affordable, social venues, offer shared places that remind us of how much we need each other and how much the wider community has to offer.
Above: Florence exploring the in-between.
The suburbs offer families more than simply extra space, but the opportunity to enjoy space as a family and wider community. For me, the return to suburbs has offered my family not only the extra space to store a boat, a motor bike or a paddling pool, but the social space to consider using them and the opportunity to join in. The suburbs can offer further potentially cohesive places of encounter and growth, which the city, all too frequently, do not. Ultimately, my relocation to the suburbs was in the hope that Leigh will provide Florence’s first corner of the world, as it did for me. Reflecting on the sense of rootedness that my suburban life has given me, I am keen that residents of the suburban places I design have not only generous individual spaces within their homes but streets and greens spaces ready for adaptation, change and growth through play and communal activity. At Oakfield, Swindon we have pulled together the surrounding communities of Nythe, Park North and Walcot by creating a large public park and pedestrian connections with safely designed streets that are surrounded by allotments, a school (which has proposed to reciprocate by offering its new neighbours spaces for communal use) and a community forest. We have designed ‘homestead’ blocks around shared outdoor space with low private fences that give access to a communal world beyond the end of the private garden. The imagination of the new community will define the nature of the shared places, but the opportunity to embrace the yet unimagined is there. Thinking about my family’s own experience and my aspirations as an architect, I have come to conclusion that the best suburban places combine the stability required for rootedness and sufficiently flexible in their public space and public venues to enable new communities to develop.
Ewan Cooper Senior Architect, Metropolitan Workshop
Ewan has worked for ten years in commercial and domestic interiors and redevelopment and worked on a variety of public and private sector projects. His work includes large urban regeneration, mixed-use developments, community, healthcare and specialist housing for older residents. He is currently the Project Architect on Oakfield Village.
PROSPECTS #01 — A NEW KIND OF SUBURBIA
16.05.19 — 16.07.19
16.05.19 — Exhibition Launch Party
16.05.19 — Prospects #01 – A New Kind of Suburbia: First Edition
Metropolitan Workshop 14-16 Cowcross Street Farringdon EC1M 6DG Open weekdays 10am - 6pm
21.05.19 — Clerkenwell Design Week Late Opening 07.06.19 — London Festival of Architecture Launch 11.06.19 — Round Table Discussion
11.06.19 — Prospect #01 – Addendum: Reﬂections for Future Practice Capturing findings, thoughts and responses from the round table discussion
11.07.19 — Student Showcase Exhibition Launch
19.09.19 — Ballot Paper: Engaging Urban Communities Publication & Exhibition Launch
Acknowledgements This is Metropolitan Workshop’s inaugural issue of Prospects and it represents a renewed commitment in the studio to practice innovation through practice-based research, dissemination and collaboration between our studios in Dublin and London, and our collaborators beyond. The editors of this edition (Gareth Bansor, Neil Deely and Dhruv Sookhoo) would like to thank the members of our studio who have supported this publication and its related programme of events by writing contributions for hardcopy and digital editions, sharing professional and personal insights through case studies, project managing communications and events, and mounting the exhibition. Thanks to: Ewan Cooper, Rebecca Davies, Ivan Dikov, Jack Hughes,
Debbie Novak, Nick Phillips, Brandon Matthews, Jonny McKenna, Tom Mitchell, Federica Fillipone, Richard Robinson and George Wallis. Special thanks are due to Kruti Patel, for and delivering the communication and marketing element of our project, and Nima Sardar for supporting the preparation of our documentation. Innovation rarely occurs in isolation. We would like to thank those practitioners from outside the practice who have shared their thoughts on suburbia within our first edition, including: Dinah Bornat (Co-Director of ZCD Architects), Mark Latham (Regeneration Director, Urban Splash), Jo McCafferty (Director, Levitt Bernstein), Richard Partington (Director, Studio Partington), Stephen Proctor (Founding
Director, Proctor and Matthews Architects), Madeleine Waller, Toby Carr (Associate, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects). We would particularly like to thank David Prichard (Co-Founding Partner of Metropolitan Workshop and MacCormac Jamieson Prichard) for his encouragement and insight in relation to our exploration of the historic development of Milton Keynes. We look forward to adding further contributions from leading practitioners in our second edition. Thank you to Simon Rhodes, Andy Syson and Jim Hough at Smiling Wolf for helping to develop the distinctive look and feel of our Prospects series. Thanks to Lee Mallett at Urbik for helping to refine our language and thinking.
A New Kind of Suburbia Exhibition
16.05.2019 — 16.07.2019
ADMISSION FREE Open weekdays, 10am – 6pm 14-16 Cowcross Street Farringdon EC1M 6DG
Each research project will begin with an issue of Prospects, a set of proposition papers that will constructively challenge our thinking, an...
Published on Jun 6, 2019
Each research project will begin with an issue of Prospects, a set of proposition papers that will constructively challenge our thinking, an...