Living Closer Together: Developing a New Vision of Suburbia in South Woodham Ferrers
Design Thesis 16th March 2018 Newnham College University of Cambridge
A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the MPhil Examination in Architecture & Urban Design (2016-18) Word Count: 14,797
This design thesis is the result of my own work and includes nothing which is the outcome of work done in collaboration except where specifically indicated in the text.
Acknowledgements From Cambridge, I’d like to thank Lefkos Kyriakou, Ingrid Schröder and Aram Mooradian for their invaluable support. To my esteemed friends and colleagues, you know who you are and it will remain the best and most enduring legacy of this course that I have you in my life. From Essex, I’m indebted to all the residents of South Woodham Ferrers who I’ve spoken to over the last 18 months. Special thanks are due to John Frankland for his unique insight into the town past and present. Thank you also to the members of the South Woodham Ferrers Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, in particular Debbie Edwards, Councillor Murrough O’Brien, Thomas & Meg Dempsey, Ian Hammond, David Birch, Tracey Chapman, Karen Hawkes and Dave Allen. Due particular special thanks are the Gills of Lace Cottages, Great Waltham: thank you for putting up with me! It was an interesting experiment in overcrowding a family home but I am nevertheless deeply grateful. Thank you also to Darryl Webber for my first press cutting, and to the Radical Essex family, in particular Hayley Dixon. From London, I’m grateful to Cristina Monteiro and David Knight for taking me under their wing, and for their ongoing support and interest. Thanks to Tim Burrows, who has been an enduring contact and support in my interest in South Woodham Ferrers. Finally, special thanks are due to Charles Holland, Gillian Darley, Verity Jane O’Keefe and Ken Worpole, for their involvement in my event.
fig. 0.2 Manifesto poster proclaiming the ambitions of the project ix
fig. 0.1 Manifesto poster proclaiming the ambitions of the project
Welcome to Suburbia
The Suburban Dream
The Suburban Home
The Suburban Polity
The Suburban Style
A New Suburbia
List of Figures
2.1 2.2 2.3
4.1 4.2 4.3
The Town The Suburb
The History of the Suburban Dream Identifying the Dreamâ€™s Legacy What to Leave Behind
The Hearth The Living Room
The Front Door The Mews Court The Suburban Cluster
The Facade The Garden
18 21 24
40 42 47
Welcome to Suburbia
The call to live closer together posits architectural propositions to polemicise and tackle residential under-occupation. The project seeks to explore how architecture might engage with this huge societal issue through reframing the conversation around an interpretation of the housing crisis as a crisis of distribution rather than supply. There are now more bedrooms per person in the UK than ever before (The Intergenerational Foundation, 2011). What if we have enough residential space, weâ€™re just not using it right?
1.1 fig. 1.1 South Woodham Ferrers
The Town The project is sited in South Woodham Ferrers (SWF) (fig. 1.1), in south Essex. Emerging as a ramshackle plotlands development following the construction of the Crouch Valley branch line in 1889, the town was drastically expanded from 1979-85 from a small village of 900 to a new town of 18,000 (fig. 1.2), in a development led by Essex County Council (ECC) with private house builders including Wimpey, Bovis Homes and Countryside Properties (fig. 1.3). Like the official new towns, SWF was built as a pram town, targeting young families to raise their children in the peaceful, semi-rural “riverside country town”: “so bring your family to SWF”, in the words of Right Hand Man’s 1981 jingle produced for an advert for the town. However, this single-generation influx of many young families, coupled with attitudes towards the town ranging from a general feeling of satisfaction to downright adoration has resulted in many of the large family homes now home to empty-nesting original purchasers (fig. 1.4). This significant shift in demographic is visible in the mothballing of Chetwood Primary School and the planned contraction of William de Ferrers High School & 6th Form. Comparing the household sizes of the town against the distribution of bedroom numbers clearly highlights the illfitting nature of the town’s housing stock to its contemporary households (fig. 1.5). It also exposes that this is not a matter of the odd spare room: indeed, many of the residents encountered during fieldwork kept as many as four spare bedrooms. Studying the house plans of such homes further exposes the sheer volume of space within them, with many featuring several reception rooms alongside the empty bedrooms upstairs (fig. 1.6). The demographic shift is further evident in the town’s population, which has shrunk from the designed capacity of 18,000 to 16,629 in the 2011 census (Office for National Statistics, 2011).The town’s total of roughly 6,000 dwellings propounds an average dwelling to house three people. If the town was occupied at such a density so many as 700 homes could be freed up for new residents. This decrease in population highlights the town’s latent capacity. Repeated concern during fieldwork included: ‘but what about the schools?’, ‘what about GP places?’, and the persistent ‘what about parking?’. The contraction of Chetwood & William de Ferrers, along with construction already underway on a new Sainsbury’s and NHS health centre to the north of the Burnham Road B1012 , and a new Co-op supermarket opening soon, quashes concerns that the town does not have space for more residents.
1.1 fig. 1.2 The new town expansion
fig. 1.6 A sample of house plans from Collingwood
1.1 fig. 1.3 Developers involved in the townâ€™s expansion 1:15,000 Existing village Town centre School Industrial estate Developer: Plots Reason Homes: 11 Broseley Homes: 9 Self-Build: 8 Bovis Homes: 7 Goldings: 6 Hey & Croft: 6 D L & P Luck: 5 Collings/Halrod: 3 M & A Builders: 3 M & A Builders / Chelmsford Developments: 3 Peter Howard: 3 Trio Homes: 3 Wimpey Homes: 3 Bellway: 2 Chelmsford Developments: 2 Comben Homes: 2 Construction: 2 Countryside Properties: 2 George Martin: 2 The Rollings Ltd: 2 A R Giles: 1 Abbey Homes: 1 Collings / Ferrers Homes: 1 David Reed Homes: 1 E J Taylor: 1 Halrod: 1 Hammond & Miles: 1 Hiltmay Ltd: 1 Ideal Homes: 1 Leach Homes: 1 Lovell Homes: 1 Matthew Homes: 1 McLaughlin & Harvey: 1 Mrs Kemble: 1 R Thomason: 1 Red Fox Developments: 1 Strongworld: 1 Tarmac Homes: 1 Wimpey/ Hanover: 1
1.1 fig. 1.4 Sale dates for Collingwood
fig. 1.5 Comparing household sizes with no. of bedrooms
1.1 fig. 1.9 Site Location 7
It is enough that such under-occupation is a missed opportunity in the face of the acute housing crisis in the south east, as evinced locally by rising house prices and the pressure put on Essex boroughs to shoulder a share of the capital’s housing demand, according to a Chelmsford City Council (CCC) senior planner. Further to this general pressure SWF is currently subject of controversial proposals for a significant expansion. As part of the CCC Local Plan (fig. 1.7-1.8), at the time of writing in the final stages of consultation, a new housing location of minimum 1,000 new homes is proposed: Site Location 7, to the north of the Burnham Road B1012, north of the existing town (fig. 1.9). This is the first significant development the town has seen in the almost 30 years since the ECC expansion. Naturally such proposals have caused significant fuss within the town, including the formation of the highly vocal anti-development campaign group South Woodham Action Group, or SWAG. Beyond the inevitable NIMBYist drama resulting from any new housing proposals in such comfortable, relatively well-off suburban environments, many of the criticisms raised by residents towards the new development have credence. Residents believe the development sites, located on the steep incline of Radar Hill and looming over the town, fail the selection criteria proposed by CCC themselves. Furthermore, it is felt that the new homes will not be affordable to locals, despite placations from CCC that similar developments nearby - such as Beaulieu Park - have majoritively been bought up by locals. Many residents interviewed expressed upset that their children were unable to purchase in the town and were therefore forced to move elsewhere (Frankland, 2018; Brunning, 2018; Dempsey, 2018). There is little hope that 1000 new homes will notably impact this trend as a reduction in house prices would damage profit margins. SWF is the second largest settlement in the borough (fig. 1.10), as emphasised by CCC senior planning officer Jeremy Potter, and thus has a role to play in providing the new homes that this area, within easy commuting distance to London, so desperately requires. There is hope: responses at Visioning Events held for the Neighbourhood Plan highlight a level of enthusiasm within the town for building more homes, with messages such as ‘Build homes here!’ added to the maps (fig. 1.11), a sentiment mirrored by the somewhat tongue-incheek YIMBY campaign the ‘Peoples’ Front of Woodham Ferrers’.
1.1 fig. 1.10 Location of South Woodham Ferrers in Chelmsford City Council area
fig. 1.11 Messages of support for new homes, at a Neighbourhood Plan Visioning event
1.1 fig. 1.7 Chelmsford City Council Local Plan Proposed rail station Existing rail station Proposed major housing sites A12 improvements New road Existing railway Existing major roads London green belt Strategic service location Green wedge Green corridor
1.1 fig. 1.8 SLAA sites highlighted by CCCâ€™s call for sites SLAA site County of Essex Parish borders
1.2 fig. 1.14-1.15 Houses in need of TLC
The Suburb Such research has wider relevance to the suburbs as a whole. It is important to study British suburbia as it is the area where the vast majority of Brits live: estimates suggest as many as 80% of us are suburbanites (Heathcoate, 2015). Whilst not occupying the traditional suburban territory of the periphery of an urban area, SWF is suburban in being dominantly residential (fig. 1.12), and in its dormitory aspect. The instance of residents working within the town is very low, with even businesses in the minimal industrial space largely ran by non-residents. Rather than a self-contained settlement, the town exists within and is dependent upon a wider network of urban areas for its existence and economic life, as demonstrated by early years questionnaires enquiring where new town residents worked (fig. 1.13). Change is afoot however. The urban renaissance since the 1980s following the decades of unprecedented suburban expansion of the early to mid 20th century focused the attention of the elites and the nation away from these neighbourhoods. The suburbs are already experiencing the adverse effects from post-Brexit fallout more keenly than urban centres (Prynn, 2017). SWF is an interesting exemplar in the suburban condition in its experience of this wider condition of suburban malaise. In interviews with the town’s residents the feeling was expressed that the town is at a turning point (Frankland, 2018; Dempsey, 2018). Many of the homes are now visibly beginning to show their age, a particular downside of an entire neighbourhood having been built at once (fig. 1.14-1.15). Many of the original house-purchasers have now themselves reached an advanced age. A divide has been observed in second generation Woodhammers of who continues to live in the town. One resident, who grew up in the town and teaches at William de Ferrers School, conducted an informal survey of the fifteen of his friends who also grew up in SWF, and whereas roughly half of those who had not gone to university had decided to remain in the town, not a single one who’d left for university chose to return. These trends constitute a substantial risk of malaise in the near future. Further to this, the legacy of the Essex Design Guide in the town, including the Restrictive Covenants (fig. 1.16-1.17) that greatly limited customisations that homeowners could make to their homes until their relaxation in the early 2000s, the town has an almost uniquely cohesive character that to some is charming, to others unnerving. Such an oppressive character, whilst important to the town, represents a level of rigidity that is at odds with a living, thriving neighbourhood. During formal interviews with residents of the town, the final question asked regarded what they hoped for the town’s future. This elicited an interesting observation from a number of residents: that the town is at a turning point. Having reached maturity, and with the threats highlighted above, it is felt that change is coming, and that the residents have an opportunity to shape the town’s future. The project is envisaged as taking
advantage of this moment; proposing alternative suburban futures that address the observed malaise and rigidity, promoting a new era of resilience in these well-loved neighbourhoods that so many of us call home. Within this wider research, the specific concern of this thesis has been to honour the affection for their suburban homes that so many feel and excavate the suburban character of the town, in order to provide a foundation from which a vision might be formed that distils the suburban legacy, rather than erasing it. The intention of such a study is in order to develop proposals that celebrates the suburban condition: the project is assertively not about urbanising the suburban town. The research method has therefore been concerned with the qualitative character both the town as it is today and how it might be in the future, and is thus not a reductive quantitative discussion of densities. Such quantitive assessment already plentiful, particularly notable in the work of Leslie Martin and Lionel March in Urban Space and Structures (1972). The fieldwork period carried out in support of this thesis was therefore primarily methodologically concerned with working with the residents in the town, achieved through joining the Neighbourhood Plan team; informal conversations; and formal interviews with a select number of contacts established in the town. What makes an area suburban is down far more to the life that happens within it than the specific number of dwellings per acre. Though the proposals of the attendant design project could be seen as profoundly un-suburban through the suggested metabolism of intensifying the existing suburban fabric, in contrast to the endless sprawl onto greenbelt sites that defined the suburban pattern of development through the 20th century, this is posited as the beginning of a new epoch in suburban history. The thesis is viewed as forerunner to the design project, and thus is not a proposal for the design of a new suburbia, more a manifesto for the specific concerns that a new conception of suburbia must address.
1.2 fig. 1.16-1.17 Essex County Councilâ€™s Restrictive Covenants
1.2 fig. 1.17 Residential areas of the town 1:15,000
1.2 fig. 1.18 Commuting destinations of SWF residents 1978-85 Essex County boundary Chelmsford Borough boundary Commuting destination
The Suburban Dream In seeking to develop a new vision of suburbia, its position in the cultural imagination must first be excavated. Though the elite have rarely shown much interest or sympathy in the suburbs, they nevertheless represent an enduringly popular prospect. This popularity can be explained by how the suburbs have always been more than just bricks and mortar. Through the manifestation of specific principles and ideals, suburbia transcends the merely physical, encompassing an entire vision of domestic life. In this ideal lifestyle, that has at so many times throughout suburban history been deeply radical, one can begin to see the potential of a new suburban vision for today. The common conception of suburbia is that it occurred by accident, by mistake or as an afterthought to ‘real cities’. Whilst true that for the most part suburbia was “non-plan” (p.11, Barker, 2009) and “improvised, not designed,” (p. 9, Fishman, 1989) this was indubitably not the case for SWF, so carefully planned and designed (fig. 2.1-2.2). Nonetheless, the exploration of the circumstances and motivations that led to the genesis of the suburban landscape uncovers a depth of ideology, without which it is impossible to concoct a fresh vision for the suburban town’s future. The key strands within this ideology are visible in the motivations behind many early Woodhammers move to the expanded town (fig. 2.3). Fishman contests that the suburbs represent a “powerful cultural ideal”, and thus that the “history of suburbia is thus a history of vision” (p.x & p.13, 1989). The examination of the key desires and principles that underpin this ideal seeks to define a legacy for the suburban dream to date. First, the historical evolution of the suburban phenomenon is scrutinised, from which key ideologies that form the conceptual pillars of the suburbs are extracted, thus establishing the ground for later chapters’ exploration of what future stages of suburban evolution could offer.
2 “Suburbia must be understood as a utopia in its own right” (p.x, Fishman, 1989) fig. 2.1-2.2 Design briefs produced by Essex County Council for the town
2 fig. 2.3 A graphic analysing the motivations behind why people moved to the town, from responses to the ECC new resident questionnaires 1978-85
Prior to beginning this discussion however, the notion of a dream must first be problematised. Many of the physical artefacts that tell the story of the suburban dream, such as those used in Barrett & Phillips’ Suburban Style (1993) and Visions of Suburbia edited by Silverstone (1997) are focused around the selling of suburbia. Metroland, the north-west London suburbs that sprung up around the London Underground’s Metropolitan Line in the mid-20th century, is a prime example of this retail-focused imagery. Such representation, including South Woodham Ferrers’ own 1981 advert, sought to crystallise the perfect vision of domestic utopia that the suburban dream denotes into a monetisable entity: “a readymade world, ready for purchase, where the buyer could simply move in and begin to live the dream as advertised” (p.344, Archer, 2005) (fig. 2.4-2.6). A critique of the relevance of the concept of a Suburban Dream therefore presents itself: to what extent is the Dream representative of the suburban experience if it is merely a veneer applied to a product, designed to allure consumers but never truly lived? The fundamental importance of individualism and self-determination however predicates that even in the context of ‘brand suburban dream’, the actual character and experience of the dream is unique to each household. There are as many suburban dreams as there are suburbanites. The experience of the Dream is a personal project, with each suburbanite engaged in what Archer describes as “material reconciliation” (p.336, 2005) of contingent world about them. If suburbia can be understood as Thompson’s definition as “characterised by the collective attempt to lead a private life” (p.82, 1982), the Dream becomes a project of individualistic nature but lived collectively; the suburban neighbourhood “a terrain in which [suburbanites] fashion and negotiate the elements of their own, often quite distinct, individual dreams” en masse (p.356, Archer, 2005). Considering the concept of suburbia through its everyday lived experience the Suburban Dream isn’t a brittle veneer retrospectively applied. Instead it is a malleable notion, to quote Jencks in his proposition of the theory Adhocism, “a general and loose approach” (p.16, 2013) that allows and encourages interaction and appropriation. By this means suburbia is an example of Marie Berneri’s definition of an “anti-authoritarian utopia”, where “happiness is the result of the free expression of man’s personality” (p.2, 1971). In contrast to the enforced uniformity of authoritarian utopias such as Bellamy’s Looking Backward, the suburban dream can be seen as being “concerned … with the ideals on which a better society can be built,” “without becoming a plan … a lifeless machine applied to living matter” (p.8, Berneri, 1971). As the collaborative individualist pursuit of personal domestic Paradises, suburbia therefore points towards an ideal life made by the “unique” individual, what Berneri declares as “the realisation of progress” (ibid.).
2 fig. 2.4-2.6 Adverts for the town at Liverpool Street train station and in print
2.1 “Suburbia can never be understood solely in its own terms. It must always be defined in relation to its rejected opposite: the metropolis.” (p.27, Fishman, 1989)
fig. 2.7 The suburban expansion of London 1840-1928
The History of the Suburban Dream Suburbia represents the invention of a novel landscape beyond the traditional city. The proto-suburban villas emerged in response to a new vision of domestic life emanating from certain philosophies with roots in the eighteenth century: the consequences of industrialisation, and the appearance of a new form of family. During the Industrial Revolution the “whirlpool cities” (H.G. Wells, as cited p.18, Fishman, 1989) of London and Manchester experienced an unprecedented influx of the rural poor, resulting in crowding and filth inconceivable to the modern imagination. The resulting urban dystopia fuelled a rejection of the metropolis. Whilst “in other centuries these conditions might have been tolerated” the nature of the 18th century as an “age of improvement” necessitated profound action: “the radical decentralisation of bourgeois residence that we have come to call suburbanisation” (p.23, Fishman, 1989). In the earliest suburbs, areas such as Islington in London that to modern eyes seem definitively urban, pioneering suburbanites, who would have still considered themselves urbanites (p.48, Barrett & Phillips, 1993), established themselves in new homogenous estates in an attempt to use social distance to protect their households. Part of the seemingly desperate need for this new distance has been credited to a new imagination of the family: namely a novel importance placed upon familial privacy. With its origins in Evangelist thought, particularly the elevation of the family to the source of the individual’s salvation, the fanatical domestication of the female gender and a strict fear of anything perceived as immoral or corrupting to the family unit, the family became “closed, domesticated [and] nuclear” (Lawrence Stone as quoted p.9, Fishman, 1989). The openness of the 18th century home, and the mixing pot of the 18th century city, suddenly became drastically unsuitable for the new family, and suburbia became the chosen place of refuge. So it became that “the essence of the suburban idea” is the “unprecedented separation of the citizen’s home from the city” (p.38, Fishman, 1989). In both these philosophical developments, physical and social distance were employed for defence. With the ground work therefore established for a new form of dwelling characterised by the “closed” family & home (p.9, Fishman, 1989) and the distancing from the city centre, the Victorian era witnessed an enormous explosion in suburban development (fig. 2.7), an increase so marked that Huq goes so far as to cite the decade of the 1840s as the definitive beginning of the modern suburb (p.7, 2013). There is a consensus amongst many authors on the explanation for such a sudden and significant expansion of this still relatively new typology: the emergence of the middle class (Fishman, 1989; Barrett and Phillips, 1993; Archer, 2005; Huq, 2013; Thompson, 1982). The rapid expansion of the middle class following the
Industrial Revolution created a significant new social body with “a clear idea of their enhanced status in society”, who “required this [new status] to be reflected in their homes” (p.8, Barrett and Phillips, 1993). Why the middle classes chose suburbia for the site of this assertion of their newly found status continues the themes of exclusion and distancing highlighted by the proto-suburban villas. More than this however, the suburbs as a novel form of built environment are emblematic of the new class’ attempt to differentiate itself from both its superiors and inferiors. The popularity of suburbia in this period was an expression of the new “kind of life” (p.13, Thompson, 1982) being lived by the middle class. The suburb of this era was thus a bourgeois utopia (Fishman, 1989): a form of life so innovative that it required a drastic departure from the urban forms of old. The late nineteenth century saw the birth of the suburb as we know it today, with the firm establishment of the “‘urbs in rure’” (Ausonius, as quoted p.187, Lewis, 2014) (fig. 2.8) character following the new heyday that the countryside enjoyed at the time. The term countryside, invented during this period, represented a vision of nature purposed for “recreation and leisure” (p.13, Barrett and Phillips, 1993). The sheer influence of this “major change in attitude toward rural Britain” (ibid.) is evident in the cottage and vernacular aesthetic that endures in suburbia to this day (fig. 2.9-2.11). This was the time in which the Picturesque began influencing the homes of the masses, a manifestation of this staged and idealised vision of a nature existing solely for enjoyment. The first stage of this new era was the suburban villa proper. Ideologically beginning in the original Roman ‘suburbium’, such as Pliny the Younger’s first century AD villa in Ostia, the suburban ideal of ““part-rural, part-urban community” (p.26, Thompson, 1982) began to gather a following amongst the middle classes, seeking the pleasures and health-giving qualities of the countryside without sacrificing access to their city-based incomes and newly found wealth. Whereas the original villas of the upper classes were predominantly classical in styling, leaning heavily on Palladian influences, later villas and the modern suburbs they preceded owe their distinctive Britishness to the Domestic Revival of the late nineteenth century. In this way this era continues a tendency for the emulation of upper classes, but not without appropriation and distinction for the new lifestyle the middle class was forging. It also greatly strengthens the narrative of social exclusion, situating the bourgeois middle class family at a distance from those classes and activities they deemed undesirable and sheltering them in an Arcadian Paradise of their own making, the defence thereby allowing the suburbanite’s self-actualisation. This period therefore was characterised by the change in “focus of suburban dreams and aspirations” (p.13, Barrett and Phillips, 1993) towards “a new romantic view of home, in which a rural cottage retreat was the ideal” (p.14, ibid.).
2.1 fig. 2.8 The urbs in rure ambition of the Essex Design Guide
fig. 2.9 Vernacular tropes in Essex Design Guide housing
The next era of suburbia saw its establishment as the British home of choice. The 1920s witnessed the explosion of home ownership in Britain, rocketing from 10% before the war to almost 30%, (p.217, Lewis, 2014) due to the rise of building societies and house-builder preference for private sale, both 19
2.1 fig. 2.10-11 Vernacular tropes in Essex Design Guide housing
hangovers from the impact of wartime rent controls that reduced housebuilders’ possible profits (fig. 2.12) (ibid.). The vast majority of the 4 million new builds completed pre-1939 were in suburbia (ibid.). This era of quiet leafy cul-de-sacs still makes up the popular image of suburbia to this day. Characterised by a cavalier attitude to authenticity in the name of creating a pastoral feel, the typical semi of the time leant heavily on the image of British vernacular popularised by the Domestic Revival and the Queen Anne style, but with a new inventiveness tartly labelled “Bypass Variegated” by Osbert Lancaster (fig. 2.13) (as quoted p.125, Barrett and Phillips, 1993). This era also saw a rising importance in greater individuation between individual dwellings, a trend that has gone on to rise in prominence in recent years. In more contemporary times, the ambition has been to avoid the unplanned sprawl of earlier suburbs in preference of centralised, local authority or government-led mass housing initiatives. This has taken the form either of direct construction, such as the housing estates of the post-war period; or through more indirect, legislative means, such as in the three New Towns phases of the mid to late twentieth century, and more recently in the large developments in areas such as the Thames Gateway and the 2017 announcements of 14 “Garden Villages” given direct government support and funding (fig. 2.14) (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, 2017). Many such large-scale developments were and are attempts to create new self-sufficient settlements, as opposed to suburbia with its dependencies on nearby established cities, but in many cases this was a failed experiment. Suburban development can therefore be considered as continuing apace, just unwittingly or under another name.
Identifying the Dream’s Legacy
The early suburban period can be seen as being concentrated on defence. The “bourgeois family,” (p.143, Rössler, 2005) characterised by a withdrawal into the family unit, placed a novel importance on familial privacy that necessitated the eviction of both work and non-family members from the intimate areas of the home. In suburbia therefore the family unit comprises the key social building block and one of its most defining attributes. The dominance of the nuclear family can be seen in the hegemony of the single family dwelling within suburban neighbourhoods (fig. 2.15). This “‘emphasis on the boundary surrounding the nuclear unit’” (p. 9, Fishman, 1989) is evident in the town’s neighbourhoods, such as in the particular area of focus of Collingwood. Here, not only is cohabitation and multi-household sharing of dwellings almost unheard of, the majority of dwellings are detached (fig. 2.16), enforcing a physical buffer of space between dwellings and families. The importance of the family sets a challenge to the proposal of this thesis: if the suburbia as we know it is characterised by distance, both physical and psychological, between the different suburbanite family units, what are the consequences of the call to live closer together? It also suggests an opportunity: it is commonly accepted that the traditional, nuclear family, precisely that which the suburban fabric is assumes and is predicated to enclose and support, is in decline: in its place are extended families, single-parent families, childless families, and many more new forms still. More on this later.
fig. 2.12 The rise of homeownership in the UK Social rented Private rented Owner-occupied
The world created by this withdrawal proffered a new autonomy to individuals and families over their lives, somewhere they were free to “create their own world of family centred values” (p.51, Fishman, 1989). As will be conferred further in later chapters this process of creation encompasses both within and without the suburbanite, in a process of individuation that sees the self created by and manifested in the suburban home. The importance of this new opportunity for self-actualisation and the definition of self-hood is visible in its choice as the primary territory of the newly emerging middle classes. Archer notes the ongoing legacy of the “heritage of Enlightenment notions of liberty, property, entrepreneurial freedom, and the right to pursue happiness,” (p.334, 2009) making the connection between the evolution of the philosophical notion of the individual and the development of suburbia. Whilst this “self-centredness” of suburbia has been criticised, the primary importance of the autonomy proffered by the suburban home is the opportunity it gives the everyperson to make their world better. In this way, as Barker says, “suburbia is a land of … hope” (p.10, Barker, 2009). Safe from the buffeting of the dangerous outside world, within the walls of their suburban home the suburbanite and their family are free to create their own autonomous world, somewhere they are in control of their own upward mobility. Rather than Sennett’s acerbic interpretation that in the suburbs “men could return to their real concerns…
fig. 2.13 Osbert Lancaster’s illustration of ‘Bypass Variegated’ from his satirical Cartoon History of Architecture (1964)
fig. 2.14 A proposed garden village on the EssexHertfordshire border
2.2 fig. 2.15 South Woodham Ferrers as a landscape defined by single family dwellings
fig. 2.16 The dominance of detached dwellings in Collingwood
the petty, routine, isolated pleasures of everyday life” (p.42, 1970), what is at stake in the suburban home is no more or less than the happiness of the suburbanite themselves: in short, to the individual, everything. The special importance of suburbia in this self-actualisation lies in the novel scale at which it was offered. The interwar years of Dunroamin saw the first great explosion of home ownership that transformed Britain into a nation of private residential ownership, or at least into a populace desirous of or even obsessed with it. Suddenly, a new vision of domestic life was available to many who could never have dreamt of such a luxury previously. This trajectory of this suburban democratisation of opportunity has continued apace following on from the 20th century commodification of culture which has experienced a particular apex in suburbia. As Archer has illuminated, “the “dream” [became] accessible to a much broader portion of the population” (p.334-5, 2005). The withdrawal was achieved through the creation of a pastoral character. An important pillar that emerged at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the ‘urbe in rus’ promise of suburbia is a potent one (fig. 2.17), the importance of which will be revisited in chapter five. In his charting of the history of the British obsession with the vernacular, Lyall is emphatic about the English cultural importance of the dream of a rural home. He terms the “cottage in the country” a “peculiar obsession” (p.18, 1988), the uniqueness of which has also be commented on by Muthesius (as cited p.19, ibid.). More broadly historians such as Fussell have also noted the importance of the countryside for English identity: “a sense of Englishness is being essentially rural was the basis for many formulations of national identity” (p.45, Mattless, 2016). Market researchers still find that “80% of the population say they would like to live in the country with views all round”, and as Barker notes, “for many suburbia is the nearest substitute” (p.24, 2009). Part of this popularity can be explained by the traditional connotations of the countryside through which it represents a place of security. The Picturesque style (fig. 2.18), representing an extrapolation of the rural vernacular, was “the architecture of the simple life” (p.19, Lyall, 1988). Here, Lyall’s interpretation strengthens the conclusion that suburbia was a phenomenon rooted in rejecting the recent changes in the city and the seeking of a return to a simpler time. This nostalgic element of suburbia, whilst comforting, is not without its problems.
fig. 2.17 The Arcadian ideals of the Essex Design Guide
fig. 2.18 Lyall’s Dream Cottages
2.3 “From its origins, the suburban world of leisure, family life and union with nature was based on the principle of exclusion” (p.3, Fishman, 1989)
fig. 1.2 The new town expansion
fig. 2.19 Residential plot envelopes around Gandalfs Ride, in the Chetwood area
What to Leave Behind Not all that suburbia represents is desirable to retain. Whilst, as Archer laments in his discussion of the mass popularity of the suburbs, many of the criticisms levelled at suburbia are “reductive” in “portraying suburbs as insidious, pernicious, homogenising, and commodity-bound” (p.340, 2005), he equally recognises the worrying trends of the “fear of risk, aversion to change, and blind faith in conventions and conventionality” (p.344, ibid.). As already illuminated, suburbia owes much of its existence to the middle class, and much of its character to their attempt to assert their social superiority through socio-spatial exclusion: “suburbia can … be defined first by what it includes — middle class residences — and second (perhaps more importantly) by what it excludes … all lower class residents” (p.6 Fishman, 1989). Much of this tendency for exclusion is rooted in fear: of the unknown; of the polluting effects of the metropolis; of the poor. Writers such as Toffler, with his concept of “future shock” (1971); Williams-Ellis, writing in 1928 about “dangerous ages”, “at which the normal rate of change is most abnormally accelerated” (as quoted p.45, Matless, 2016); and Leadbeater (p.15, 1989) offer contemporary parallels to explain the perceived withdrawal into the ‘safe’, protected realm that suburbia represents. In this line of thought suburbia continues a role “as a compensation” that ”offers them a retreat into a secure, private world” (p.15, ibid.), or Sennett’s more reductive & acidic position, “suburbanites are people who are afraid to live in a society they cannot control” (p.72, 1970). However, the social homogeneity with which Thompson defines suburbs (p.8, 1982) threatens the vitality of these neighbourhoods as they are rendered particularly vulnerable to the economic slowdown that is hitting the “squeezed middle” (Miliband, as quoted Monaghan, 2014) particularly keenly. Furthermore, Sennett asserts that the middle-class mindset is antithetical to the communal conception of public right to space necessary to the proposal of living closer together. Such a tendency towards exclusion also threatens an equitable conception of the suburban dream based around its history as a space of democratic access to a better life, and so possible futures as a catalytic site of social justice. Instead of persisting with the “increasingly zoned” suburban character that we have inherited, Archer argues that it is only through “welcoming difference, negotiation and hybridity that suburbs can best sustain their vitality” (fig. 1.2 & 2.19) (p.349, 2005). Further to the discussion of the importance of a new conception of suburbia, one more welcoming to notions of difference and negotiation, is the consideration of the consequences that such a reconsideration might have for everyday suburban life. The suburban home offers a promise of
stability and stasis, an impression painted with the many adjectives most commonly associated with suburban neighbourhoods: peaceful, leafy, quiet, safe (fig. 2.20-2.21). As a dwelling it seems to occupy a space in the collective imagination equivalent to a computer game’s ‘save progress so far’ command, an impression supported by Archer’s description of suburbia as a “datum” (p.351, 2005): a “datum of opportunity” (ibid.), of quality of life. Though a prospect that is undeniably deeply attractive to many, the notion of suburbia as a realm of ‘the finished life’ becomes problematic when perceived as creating a tendency for passivity, conservatism and risk-aversion. In this instance, the suburbs, originally sites of innovation, become stale. Whilst the fear of the big, bad world beyond the suburb might be a justified one, future suburbia has the challenge of negotiating a way of providing security in a more healthy way that mediates rather than excludes.
2.3 fig. 2.20-2.21 The peaceful and leafy cul-de-sacs of the town
The Suburban Home We now enter the heart of the suburban neighbourhood: the home. The single-family home, on its own little plot with garden front and back, is the ground zero both of suburban life and of the specific character of the suburban street. The heartbeat of suburbia is within the home; here lies all the vibrancy and activity that is so conspicuously absent from the peaceful, leafy roads of the suburbscape. Thompson asserts that suburbia is defined by “home-centredness,” (p.140, 1982) and as the examination of suburban history highlights, the home played a key role in the establishment of the new way of life that sparked the emergence of the suburbs. It was the site of retreat, the territory of the “new form of family” that required defending from the dangerous metropolis. Walking around SWF, the dominance of the home as the nexus of the suburban identity is conspicuous (fig. 3.13.2), amplified by the near total isolation of anything non-residential to certain pockets of the town (fig. 3.3). This is one of the great criticisms of suburbia: the endless streets of home after home, the dearth of public spaces, of shops and cafes and of the hustle and bustle of urban life. The overbearing silence and emptiness as life goes on behind closed doors; the private worlds perhaps glimpsable through the net curtains or over the fence or hedge. Why this domestic hegemony? Why the home should be such a fundamental building block, an important influence not only in the emergence of this typology and a cornerstone to this day is the topic of this chapter.
3 ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’ (p.x, Fishman, 1989)
“The home has always been the backbone of the British way of family life” (News of the World Better Homes Book, 1934, as quoted p. 126, Barrett & Phillips, 1993) fig. 3.1-3.2 The peaceful, leafy cul-de-sacs and pedestrian pathways of the town
In recent design experiments the proposals dismantle the suburban home into a series of elements: the hearth, the living room, the front door, the mews court, the cul-de-sac, the facade, the garden and the stairs. These fragments are identified as the locus for key moments of suburban life: peaceful Sunday mornings reading the Sunday papers in the living room perhaps, or an after-school kick-about on the carefully tended back-garden lawn. By disassembling the home in this way a synergy is sought between the proposed new suburban homes and the new suburban lives that occur within. The following chapters consider these fragments, using them as the starting point for wider meditations on the history, cultural importance and potential futures of SWF and suburbia more generally.
3 fig. 3.3 Locating the nonresidential areas of the town
The Hearth Why is the home so important in suburbia? Why, in fact, is it that, as Lewis observes, “British society, perhaps more than any other nations’, has a perennial obsession with its living space”. This obsession, so definitive as to be commented upon by Muthesius in The English House, is what gave us the quiet and leafy suburban world. Whilst obviously functionally important as a place of shelter, the role of the home transcends mere practicality; our homes are far more important in our lives than we might appreciate. In Psychology of the House (1977), Olivier argues that the hearth has a deep symbolism within the home. The importance of this symbolism can help illuminate the source of the home’s importance within British culture.
3 3.1 “‘To an Englishman the idea of a room without a fireplace is quite simply unthinkable’” (Muthesius, as quoted p.41, Heathcoate, 2012)
At the heart of the home is the hearth, yet an open fire, even a woodburner, is in the modern home functionally superfluous. Central heating, radiators and underfloor heating have rendered the fireplace unnecessary, but nevertheless it persists: “the fireplace survived in the suburbs… it remained central to the idea of home” (p.41, Heathcoate, 2012). As such, the fireplace is the first example we will encounter of the overriding importance of pleasure and experience to suburban life even in the face of functional redundancy. Instead of the ‘engine of the home’ (p.58, ibid.) that the hearth used to be, its role now instead is one of “selling dreams of domesticity” (p.41, ibid.), creating a pastoral icon at the centre of the home and comforting those huddled around it with a feeling of security and tradition as well as warmth. Beyond these pastoral connotations, Olivier argues that the hearth has further symbolism within the home. To him, in the column of smoke we “consciously perceive” the “principle of verticality”, and through this verticality the chimney “becomes the archetype of man’s aspiration to achieve unity through self-transcendence” (p. 98, Olivier, 1977). The idea of self-transcendence connects with the discussion in the last chapter of self-actualisation in the suburbs, a process that suggests that the importance of the home can be understood as stemming from its role in the dweller’s identity. In House as Mirror of Self (1997), Marcus extends the Jungian philosophy of self to encapsulate the home within Jung’s conception of individuation. She asserts “that the places we live in are reflections of [the] process” of “striving toward a state of wholeness, of being wholly ourselves” (p.8, 1997), what Olivier terms “unity” (p. 98, 1977). The home therefore transcends “the usual concerns for security, privacy and personal space” (p.2, Marcus, 1997) and is instead “‘a concretisation of the individuation process’” (Jung as quoted p.xvii, Yandell, 1997). Olivier champions the home as “the most perfect expression of the self”, where “once we have crossed the threshold and shut the door behind us we can be at one with ourselves” (p.14, 1977). Through our homes “we construct ourselves” (p.72, ibid.). The home is “the necessary base from which consciousness is formed, consolidated and expanded, and the self defined” (p.67, ibid.), but 29
the process occurs both ways: through “expression-feedback-integration” (p.xv, Yandell, 1997) we shape our homes but they also shape us in return. The home is therefore somewhere of deep psychological and philosophical significance: “it is ourselves, and in it we may recognise ourselves” (p.72, Olivier, 1997). The process of self-actualisation and the home’s relevance within it derives not just from the outward communications proffered by an identifiable territory, but more deeply from the dialogue between dweller and dwelling that forms a part of our process of individuation, that is on our way to “inner wholeness” (p.8, Marcus, 1997). This is the selftranscendence that the verticality of the hearth symbolises. As the location for the identity formation of the middle classes, the choice of suburbia as a “bourgeois utopia” (Fishman, 1989) points to the particular relevance of the suburbscape as a site of self-actualisation, as a landscape historically defined by an attempt to establish and advertise a new way of life. Furthermore in the idea of suburbia as a locale where life might be ‘finished’, as discussed in the last chapter, the suburban home promises a domestic utopia where identity formation and expression might occur uninterrupted, safe from the disruptions of the wide world beyond the cul-de-sac. Each home, clearly definable and located within its own plot of greater or lesser Arcadian isolation, is both site and symbol of this uninterrupted life, where each family might have the freedom to create their own world. Marcus separates the zones of the process of self-actualisation into two fields: enclosed space and excluded space. The house “thus has two very important and different components; its interior and its facade” (p. 131, 1974). Here we will stay huddled by the warm heat of the hearth and explore the interior; the facade, the face of the home, will be explored later in the discussion of suburban style. In pursuit of a more efficient and equitable way of inhabiting the suburban homes of SWF, the thesis posits that we should inhabit the spaces of our homes in a more flexible way. Appreciating that spatial requirements change over varying timescales, from as regularly as monthly, such as a visiting offspring and their family; through to over generations, such as in welcoming a new member of the family (fig. 3.4); a mechanism is proposed where excess space is pooled, thus minimising it’s time as ‘spare’ and unused. The expansion and contraction of our spatial needs over time is pragmatically reflected in the understanding of the house plan as a collection of rooms; a Picturesque sprawl where elements may accrue or be redistributed as requirements change. Interviews with over-occupying residents of the town supported an original hypothesis that the spaces in question are primarily bedrooms, thus the design concentrates here (Burrows, 2017; Frankland, 2018; Brunning 2018; Dempsey 2018). It is intended that such negotiation of spatial requirements though an exchange of bedrooms to-and-fro between homes will create a more active form of dwelling. The intention is that, through much more regular home-making than in traditional circumstances, a much closer relationship between dweller and dwelling might be created. This approach has parallels with
the use of the diagonal in Renaudie’s Jeanne Hachette Complex, Ivry-surSeine, Paris (1969-75) where awkward spaces were purposefully created in order that they might subvert residents’ ordinary habits in inhabiting space, thereby unlocking space for the “abstract content” in our lives (fig. 3.5-3.7) (p.47, Scalbert, 2004). Such a process of exchange could happen at a relatively quick pace, in the instance of a visitor staying only a few weeks, or over a much longer period of several years as in the case of an elderly parent joining the household for extra family support, both instances observed in SWF residents interviewed for this thesis (Brunning, 2018; Frankland 2018; Dempsey 2018). The specific character of the bedroom in the modern Western home as a site of exclusive individual or couple privacy makes it a site of great importance to the individuation process, but also one where such activity may already be a significant part of the room’s day to day life. Importantly for this discussion, considering the diversifying of family and household structures within UK society, Marcus observed that in particular in non-nuclear family households, the bedrooms assumed an even greater importance in the individual’s process of individuation, as seen in the relative concentration of personal affects (p.35, 1995). The encouraging of occupation and relinquishing of these pooled bedrooms therefore seeks to harness the existing prevalence of personalisation in these spaces, but also through the challenging and contesting of this process to provoke a strengthening of it.
3.1 fig. 3.5-3.7 Jean Hachette Complex by Jean Renaudie (1970-75)
3.1 fig. 3.4 Diagrammes exploring how spatial requirements change over time
The Living Room
We will now move from the hearth, to the room in which it is found: the living room, the heart of the family home. From this room, we can learn much about how the bourgeois home has changed over the years. Its immediate ancestor was the parlour, a ‘Sunday best’ room which found the most use either impressing guests, or as the site of a deceased family member’s body lying in state before burial. Rather than the site of much living, the parlour sat empty and unused most of the time, despite being carefully dressed with the family’s best ornaments, furniture and trinkets (fig. 3.8-3.9). Though these rooms may still be where we entertain guests, its mantelpiece still home to our favourite family photos and objects of special importance, the thought of leaving such a large room in the house empty most of the time is now increasingly antithetical to our modern way of dwelling. The trend towards open-plan, in the living room’s marrying with the kitchen and dining room, has redefined the formality of our homes and family lives.
fig. 3.8-3.9 Personal effects pride of place in Woodhammers’ living rooms
In contrast to the individual privacy of the bedrooms, the main living space is the family zone of the home. As such it holds particular importance within the suburban experience, as, if the fundamental unit of the suburb is the home, the base building block of the suburban social environment is the family. However, many of the neighbourhoods that we picture when we hear the word suburbia were built in a time when the family was very different to now. Even since the early 1980s, when SWF was built, we have experienced a marked shift in particular in gender roles within the home. This shift within the family is made visible in the new householder questionnaires carried out by ECC in the first few years of the new town’s existence, in the rise of the second household income; namely the rise in women going out to work (fig. 3.10). The nature of family structure is also becoming much more complex than the image of the nuclear family we have inherited. University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen observes: “there hasn’t been the collapse of one dominant family structure and the rise of another … it’s really a fanning out into all kinds of family structures, different is the new norm” (as quoted Keating, 2014). Though this comment refers to the American context its relevance to the UK context is affirmed by the Understanding Society study, a research project carried out by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, which noted an “increased pluralism of family models” (2008). During my time on fieldwork I encountered a number of such different models of families and households, which form the basis of the typologies of my proposals. The initial inspiration for this project originated from a perceived pattern of empty-nesters over-occupying family homes in SWF. The potential scale of this occurrence is made stark when one considers that though the majority of families, defined by the Office for National Statistics as “a married, civil partnered or cohabiting couple with 33
3.2 fig. 3.14 Distribution of household sizes nationally
fig. 1.5 Comparing household sizes with no. of bedrooms
fig. 3.13 Charting the rise of single-personal households
or without children, or a lone parent, with at least one child, who live at the same address”, within the UK remain the opposite sex married couple, only 35% of these households contain dependent children (2017). This is reflected in how average household sizes are heavily weighted towards one or two people households (fig. 3.11). Yet the majority of local housing stock is at the larger end of the spectrum (fig. 1.5). It is not so simple however as to suggest that these over-occupiers just move. Though the town was built for young families, careful thought was put into the accommodation for older residents within the town. In the original design it was intended that residents would move closer to the town centre as they aged; to paraphrase one resident ‘we’d start on the outskirts with our big families and big gardens, then move closer and closer in before leaving in a box’ (fig. 3.12). Nevertheless, many homeowners do not choose to downsize in this manner. Despite ECC’s careful planning, in reality the scale of the demographic shift in the town coupled with many householder’s reluctance to make the ‘mixed-use’ style move to town centre apartments has resulted in the widespread under-occupation. The majority of people I spoke to fit within this classification. Many of them expressed concern at the proposals that, though their spare rooms may be empty most of the year, at critical points such as Christmas for a short time they suddenly become indispensable. Thus the design of the new family home is challenged not only with how it might be able to expand and contract over the timespan of years, there is a parallel much shorter timespan within which extra space needs to be found. Nevertheless this form of household, coupled with the rise in single-person households (fig. 3.13), puts forward the challenge of designing smaller homes for the town that are a better reflection of the popular imagination of suburban life than the town centre flats. Another concern voiced by over-occupying residents is what happens if the adult children need to return to the family home, an occurrence that has seen a rapid increase in recent years, with an increase of 15% from 1996 to 2015 (Office for National Statistics, 2017). The return of adult children to the home invites a different expectation of proximity and intimacy within the experience of family, with the adult children potentially expecting greater levels of freedom and independence on their return than when they were growing up in the house. A case study proffered by the town was advanced by a teacher at William de Ferrers school, who spoke of a trend within the town for multi-generational families where a child has had a child of their own whilst still living with their parents. In this occurrence three generations of an extended family cohabit; the children continuing to live in the family home, with the grandparents assisting with childcare. Another example of multi-generational households lies in a significant number of residents I met in the town who had in the past welcomed their parents into their homes, in order to offer them extra support and informal care in the winter of their lives (fig. 3.14). Another national trend, though not yet common in the town, is of an increase in shared accommodation, with several non-related families sharing the same dwelling. Catalysed by rising unaffordability in the housing market, couples who historically would have been able to move into a home of
3.2 fig. 3.10 The rise of secondary income, namely wives, in the town, as illuminated by ECC questionnaires 1978-85
3.2 fig. 3.14 Thomas Dempsey and his partner Meg who cared for Megâ€™s mother in their home until her passing in December
their own are instead forced to share homes with other households. I did encounter a number of younger generation Woodhammers living in such dwellings, suggesting that, though this may not yet be prevalent within the town, it may become more common be in future. Each of these more complex household structures, where there may be either plural families in the traditional sense, namely with children, or plural adult couples within the home, put different pressures upon the shared areas of the family living space. In such households, there may be more than one meal time for example; the specific timetables may vary substantially between the different households. Privacy and intimacy within a couple or family are experienced very differently within shared homes and this should be reflected, and if possible mediated by, the design of the home. Such diversification in family formation is not reflected in the house plans of SWF. The family home as we currently understand it is both celebrated and superfluous: if we are to occupy our neighbourhoods more fully, we need homes that are smaller, alongside homes that more accurately reflect the complexity of modern household composition. This changing nature of the family necessitates a reframing of suburbia as, though the suburbs as we know them might be characterised by physical and psychological distance between the different suburbanite family units, the fall of the traditional, nuclear family, precisely that which the suburban fabric is assumes and is predicated to enclose and support, forces the hand in developing new forms of the family home.
3.2 fig. 3.12 Locating the housing designed for elderly residents 1:15,000 Apartment Town Centre
The Suburban Polity
The suburbs are not made of homes alone, however. The relationships between dwellings, both physically and socially, is of great import to the suburban experience, as can be seen in the necessity of demarcating the boundary between separate dwellings. The challenge of living closer together impacts upon these relationships by intensifying the proximity of dwellings. The design proposals intend to interrogate the oxymoron of the suburban block, developing a formula by which this increased proximity is expressed in harmony with the suburban tradition. Considering the wider suburban neighbourhood, this chapter probes how the interstitial spaces that mediate between the individual dwellings are navigated and celebrated within the project.
4.1 fig. 4.1-4.3 Documenting the individuation of front doors within the town
The Front Door Having already explored the hearth, the front door encapsulates a further two of Olivier’s “four archetypal signs”, “collective symbols …that make up [the house’s] basic structure”: the door and threshold (p.70, 1977). This moment of transition from the wider suburban realm into the sanctified privacy of the home is phenomenologically significant, and as such the front door itself is deeply symbolic. The dream of having one’s own front door is a potent one (fig. 4.1-4.3). This is the site of mediation between the home and the wider community, where one might welcome guests, or meet the postman: the final frontier between “the chaos of the outside world and the sacrosanct order within” (p.25 Heathcote, 2012). Before leaving the suburban home, this first and final threshold at the interface between dwelling and neighbourhood must be considered. The importance of community within suburbia is not without contention, but rather than being devoid of community as many critics contend, suburbia is instead the site of an alternative manifestation. Hayden contends that the “picturesque enclaves” of 19th century America, of her seven suburban typologies the one closest to the British experience, were home to a “triple dream: house plus nature plus community” (p.66, Hayden, 2004). It is evident from the motivations of why people moved to SWF that the promise of a wider community of like-minded neighbours is one of the cornerstones of the suburban dream. Thompson asserts that the nature of suburbia as “the collective attempt to lead a private life” (p. 82, 1982), in one turn of phrase capturing the dual aspects of suburban privacy: the continuing dominance of the single-family home as the fundamental building block of the suburban neighbourhood against its need to be sited in a wider social group of shared values. The discussion at this scale therefore centres on the relationships between these autonomous units. The reason for the enduring importance of community in suburbia can be explained by how it buffers the home from the wider world, thus achieving the defence highlighted in chapter two. Both Fishman and Sennett observe this buffering from the wider world, and even from each other. To Fishman, the suburbscape “built its vision of community on the primacy of private property and the individual family,” (p.x, 1989). In Uses of Disorder, Sennett’s cheerful view of suburban community is that “the images of communal solidarity are forged in order that men may avoid dealing with each other” (p.34, 1970). Despite the suburban focus on withdrawal into familial privacy, the nature of suburbia is one of a “private retreat within the community of neighbours” (p.75, Coon, 2003). The community therefore has a specific, yet still indispensable, role to play in suburban areas. SWF poses an allegory for the nature of suburban community life. Whilst the town’s cul-de-sacs and paths remain oppressively peaceful and empty, underneath the surface bubbles an almost constant level of activity. Nearly every resident I spoke to was emphatic that ‘there is lots
to do if you look for it’ (Frankland, 2017; Brunning, 2018; Birch, 2018; Chapman, 2018). The wife of one resident interviewed was a member of eight different such groups, from sailing to knitting to the local history society committee (Brunning, 2018). This can be seen as representative of the trend in the UK of social circles being predominantly based of interest rather than proximity. In this network-based social terrain, public spaces as the centre of the community are less paramount to the social life of the place. This is not to say that neighbourliness is not deeply important to the suburban experience, but that the paradigm of ‘the town centre’ is less representative of the town’s social life.
4.2 fig. 4.4-4.5 The Mews Court as illustrated in the 1973 Essex Design Guide
The Mews Court Leaving the home, we encounter one of the 1973 Essex Design Guide’s great calling cards: the Mews Court (fig. 4.4-4.5). This typology comprises of a shared surface around which a small number of homes are gathered. Though in essence a Highways innovation, the Court forges an atmosphere of neighbourly intimacy that intensifies the suburban home’s buffering of the family from the outer world by adding another social and spatial layer of defence. This is the scale at which the new homes will be introduced. The design proposals introduce a process of iterative densification, with the intention of reinstating incremental development into the town. Designed as a completed entity, the town expansion entirely enveloped and sterilised the haphazard and utopic landscape of the original plotlands village (fig. 4.6-4.7). Such a form of development exemplifies artificiality: it is the opposite of the historic English town, an organic result of generations of contributions, additions, subversions and detractions. Envisioned and developed by the county council in partnership with large private house-builders, and having seen nominal change since, SWF is an example of one of Sennett’s “brittle” (p.3, 2013) settlements, a victim of its own “over-determination” (p.2, ibid.). In the early years this need for “order and control” (ibid.) by ECC was made explicit and legally binding in the aforementioned Restrictive Covenants that went so far as to specify acceptable garage doors (fig. 1.21-1.22). Sennett warns that such “over-specification of form and function makes the modern urban environment a brittle place” (ibid.). The resultant sterility and stasis is reflected in the discomfort some residents, such as one ex-resident who grew up in the town who spoke of how her and her friends used to call the place ‘toy town’ (Burrows, 2017): implying a sanitised, Disneyfied fakery of an imagined East Anglian legacy. The reestablishment of incrementality inaugurates a return to days of old when buildings and neighbourhoods were seen as “living, organic things” (p.13, Heathcote, 2012). Through this the town has the opportunity to transition from stasis to what Sennett coins an “open system” (p.1, 2013), defined as the pattern formed by “disparate phenomena” of “chance events, mutating forms, elements which cannot be homogenized or are not interchangeable” (p.6, ibid.). He asserts that “the open city is a bottomup place; it belongs to the people,” (p.14, ibid.) suggesting that multiauthorship creates a more democratic form of development. Such a system subverts the typical ‘big player’ development model, of which both the town’s expansion and Site Location 7 are emblematic. The polarisation of developer & planning authority and resident serves to generate an atmosphere of resentment and mistrust that poisons local opinion towards development and is consequentially counterproductive.
4.2 fig. 4.6 Locating the plotlands village that the new town expansion enveloped 1:15,000 1920 1960 1970 1980 2018
4.2 fig. 4.7 Mapping how the town has evolved over time
Sennett’s proposition of the “open system” (p.1, 2013) is realised in the project through a collaborative, multi-authored development process, a process that is commensurate with Scalbert’s notion of bricolage. This concept, inspired by readings of Levi-Strauss’ The Savage Mind, will be revisited in the discussion of Suburban Style, but is relevant here also in the conception of the city as an assemblage; “a layered cake of different eras” with a “tradition of accumulation” (p.xii, Jencks & Silver, 2013). Whereas rigidity threatens the suburbanite’s self-actualisation, envisioning the town as a collaborative aggregation offers opportunities for this suburban process. Niklas Luhmann’s concept of “‘auto-poiesis’”, in which “human beings create, through mutual exchange, the systems of value by which they live” is one that can greatly contribute to the process of individuation considered in the last chapter in how “the more they exchange with one another, the more individuated they become” (p.6, Sennett, 2013). Through a collective, community-scale Robinson Clusoe experience of the suburbanite and his home, where there is “‘a fluttering ‘I’ which comes to rest now on the man and now on the [house], making of me on and the other by turns’” (Tournier, as quoted p.231, Scalbert, 2011), both suburbanite and the wider suburban community embark on the journey of self-actualisation. Development becomes, as proposed by Jencks in Adhocism, a “democratic style”, “by which everyone could be the author of his own environment” (p.229, ibid.). This reconsideration of development therefore further contributes to the suburbanite’s development of selfhood within the suburb. The danger of both the town’s rigidity and its built environment’s systemic alienation of its residents are also recognised in Habraken’s warnings of how housing conceived as a “completed product” “turns the dwelling into a consumer article and the dweller into a consumer” (p.11, 1972). In his conflation of possession with identity Habraken proposes that an active form of dwelling is necessary for the self: without it “we cannot experience our existence” (p.11, 1972). Enfranchisement of SWF residents in the town’s intensification thereby possesses potential to further satisfy “their yearnings to shape their own environment” (p.10, Ward, 1987) thus raising the dialogic process of selfhood-formation to a neighbourhood scale and answering Ward’s call for people to be given a chance and allowed involvement in their housing (p.10, ibid.).
The Suburban Block
The Mews Court is an existing example within the context of a socio-spatial hierarchy. Expanding this hierarchy extends and thus softens the transition from semi-private to public. Rössler proposes that we understand privacy in a stratified way, as a series of layers across a spectrum, using the metaphor of “the onion of privacy” (p. 2, Rössler, 2005). Her theories have a spatial parallel in Chermayeff and Alexander’s Community and Privacy (1963), which categorises this spectrum into “six domains of urbanity” (p.121122), a hierarchy of spatial realms spanning from urban-public through to individual-private (fig. 4.8). Understood in conjunction with evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar’s research, which proposes that humans are hard-wired for certain social scales, these realms create a framework through which the new suburban fabric can be structured. Dunbar suggests social groupings on a spectrum from 15 at the most intimate, interpreted here as the immediate neighbours; to 50, the social community of the Mews Court; through to 150 at the maximum scale, the cul-de-sac (fig. 4.9) (2011). Understanding the sequence experienced between private and public in this manner intends to structure the relationships between the new suburban homes in a way that respects the sacrosanctity of the individual family unit, whilst amplifying the vital community aspect. The Mews Court can be seen as one example of a suburban cluster within the town, but in the majority of SWF the cul-de-sac occupies the spatial zone between the privacy of the home and the urban-public of the wider town.
fig. 4.8 Chermayeff & Alexanders “six domains of urbanity”
The cul-de-sac is, like the Mews Court, primarily a highways innovation: they are cheaper to build than through-roads. Nevertheless, they are a key constituent of the character of the suburbscape. These spaces are particularly notable as defensible space, creating the archetypal ‘neighbourhood watch’ aspect. As the suburb remains a children-centric environment, such an observable setting is useful. At the scale of the streetscape the uncomfortable jostling of homes, each in Arcadian ambition pretending their neighbours aren’t less than a meter away, is strongly apparent, emphasising the contradiction at the heart of suburbia’s pastoral aspirations. Particularly within SWF, homes already exist at such a proximity as to effectively, if not undermine, then be fundamentally different to the suburban image of old. The proposed intensification of these these areas foresees an opportunity for a better mediation between homes, with attendant fortuity for the intensification of suburban social life. The project posits that the structure of the town should mirror the dissolution of the Chicago School concentric model of urbanism (fig. 4.10) (Florida, 2013) that the modern suburb, and SWF, represents at a semiregional scale. As illuminated in the study of the network of urban loci that the town is dependent upon, the traditional conception of one ‘centre’ about which neighbourhoods are radially arrayed is out of date. Likewise, within the town itself, the idea that the town’s social life depends on the town
fig. 4.10 Burgess’ concentric zones model (1925)
4.3 fig. 4.9 Positiong the Mews Court and Cul-deSac in the transition from private to urban-public 1:500 Urban-public Group-public Group-private Family-Private Dwelling
4.3 fig. 4.11 The road-centric unsociability of the cul-de-sacs in Collingwood
fig. 4.24 Maki’s analytical tool for understanding collective form
centre is discarded. Recognising the importance of the living room within the life of the myriad community groups of the town, the project therefore seeks to focus attention on the social spaces at the scale of the cluster. This is not to say that the town centre is obsolete, but instead that it is secondary to this more intimate scale. It was observed over fieldwork however that the current model of the cul-de-sac has a limited function as a social space. Dominated by the road, these areas are flawed by a predominant feeling that their purpose is to transport suburbanites swiftly out from their homes to the town’s trunk roads, impairing them as spaces to spend time (fig. 4.11). Residents commented upon this lack of real community space. One approach to the intensification of the spatial hierarchy within the town is the expansion of the group-private space of the Mews Court typology. In this approach further group-private squares are enclosed by a small number of homes. An example of this approach in a suburban context is Tinggården, a small development of 78 homes in Herfølge, a suburb of Køge in Denmark, by Vandkunste Architects (1978) (fig. 4.11-4.15). These 78 family homes are grouped into six family clusters, each of which encloses a group-private square and “gathering places”, each accompanied by a community house. This is one of the most relevant precedents gathered here as it maintains the most distinct expression of individual dwellings, despite the uniformity of its materiality. The technique of both indoor and outdoor community spaces is one that has great relevance for the design proposals, in particular considering the aforementioned role of the living room in SWF’s social life. Such community houses could in the proposals manifest as shared community living rooms, both making the existing community group gatherings more visible and acting as latent overflow space for the homes. Another example of the clustering of dwellings about a group-private square is Penn’s Landing Square (fig. 4.16-4.19), a complex of 118 dwellings by Louis Sauer in Chicago (1968-70) and another low-rise, high density precedent. Inside an almost fortified block, the dwellings are organised around a “fluid garden with sinuous paths” (Martínez García & Rivera Bajo, 2017). Despite the urban context of this scheme each dwelling retains a private external courtyard or terrace and an “excellent degree” of privacy is achieved between the “independent houses” (ibid.). At a larger scale, the Bishopsfield Estate in Harlow by Neylan & Ungless (1967) (fig. 4.204.23) each L-shaped courtyard dwelling encloses its own private courtyard, arranged on a radial array of ‘Casbah’-like alleys, emanating from a central group-private square. Using the analytical tool from Collective Form, Three Paradigms by the Japanese Metabolist architect Maki (fig. 4.24) (1964) this technique can be understood through the typology of “compositional form”, in which a collection of separately “preconceived and predetermined” elements are composed together (p.6, Maki, 1964). In this instance the individual dwellings or terraces can be seen as the elements composed around and thereby enclosing group-private squares. As with the “megaform” typology, not discussed here due to it’s anti-suburban scale and intense formality, Maki recognises “compositional form” as potentially static due to how “the
act of making a composition itself has a tendency to complete a formal statement” (ibid.). The last of Maki’s typologies, “group form”, is the least rigid. “Developed as a critique of the static nature of “master-planning”,” (p.318 Taylor, 1999) Maki asserts this as a sequential form of development (p.16, 1964). Defined as a form which “evolves from a system of generative elements in space,” (p.14, ibid.) in his paper Investigations in Collective Form (1964) the majority of precedents are vernacular. It’s true that this is the most anarchic of the three programs in terms of the public & semi-public spaces it creates, due to the lack of formal organisation. Instead, the public realm is formed from the in-between zones created by the accretion of buildings over time. Most compelling in this form to the suburban condition is the idea that “the element and growth pattern are reciprocal”: that the element, in the case of the proposals the dwelling, and the process of growth, in this instance the neighbourhood’s process of iterative intensification, are engaged in a “feedback process” (p.19, ibid.). In this way this form has potential for the suburbanite’s self-actualisation through continual physical engagement with their surroundings both of the home and wider environs. This typology is further relevant in its nature as typically a bottom-up process, that “evolves from the people of a society” (ibid.). Maki sought to manifest this form, which he saw as integrating the elusive 4th dimension through the design forging a “passage from “plan” to “program,”” (p.318 Taylor, 1999) in Hillside Terrace Complex I-VI in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan (1969-1992) (fig. 4.25-4.27). In this scheme he employed the five categories he outlined in Group-Form, the article he cowrote with Masato Otaka in Metabolism, The Proposals for a New Urbanism (1960) (fig. 4.28). These categories, of mediating, definining, repeating, making sequential paths and selecting were engaged through use of depth of field; complex views through the site; and a pluralism of circulation (p.330, Fernández Per & Mozas, 2013). Most interesting about this scheme for the proposals is the treatment of the public realm, in which a “complex inverse play on activity and privacy” creates deeply layered public spaces that simultaneously catalyse social interaction and allow for people to enjoy their solitude (p.334, ibid.). Whilst Hillside does include housing, a more residential precedent for “group form” could be Walter’s Way in Lewisham, London (fig. 4.29-4.31), a private road of 13 houses built in the 1980s using Walter Segal’s radically affordable self-build construction system. The arrangement of the cluster of houses around a very socially successful group-private cul-de-sac was informed primarily by the awkwardly shaped and topographically challenging plot. This responsiveness to an unconventional site is enough to highlight the Way as a significant precedent to the project alone. Furthermore, since the Way’s construction, each house has idiosyncratically evolved and expanded, such as no.11 which has been extended to include a yoga studio.
fig. 4.28 Maki and Otaka’s five categories of “group form”
4.3 fig. 4.12-4.14 TinggĂĽrden (1978)
fig. 4.15 Spatial analysis of a figure ground of TinggĂĽrden (1978) 1:1250 Urban-public Group-public Group-private Family-Private Dwelling
4.3 fig. 4.16 Spatial analysis of a figure ground of Pennâ€™s Landing Square (1968-70) 1:1250 Urban-public Group-public Group-private Family-private Dwelling Communal swimming pool
fig. 4.17-4.19 Pennâ€™s Landing Square (1968-70)
Urban-public Group-public Group-private Family-private Dwelling 55
4.3 fig. 4.20 (previous page) Spatial analysis of a figure ground of the main area of the Bishopsfield Estate (1967) 1:1250
fig. 4.21-4.23 Bishopsfield Estate (1967)
fig. 4.27 (opposite page) Spatial analysis of a figure ground of Hillside Terrace Complex I-VI (19691992) 1:1250 Urban-public Group-public Group-private Private Building 56
4.3 fig. 4.25-4.26 Hillside Terrace Complex I-VI (19691992)
4.3 fig. 4.29 Spatial analysis of a figure ground of Walter’s Way (1980s) 1:1250 Urban-public Group-public Group-private Family-private Dwelling
fig. 4.30-4.31 Walter’s Way (1980s)
The Suburban Style Of all the criticisms levelled at suburbia, the absence of style is the most prevalent. The suburbs are seen as a place devoid of taste and of meaning, where design merit is laughably absent. The suburbscape is criticised as a place of conformity, of anonymity in a sea of identikit B&Q fences and Leylandii hedges. Both Barrett & Phillips in Suburban Style (1993) and Archer in Suburban Aesthetics is not an Oxymoron (2005) argue that this perspective is reductive. Waiting until now to explore the aesthetic side of suburbia endeavours to address the concern that conversations about suburbia typically neglect suburban life, as voiced by Ken Worpole at my event Let’s Talk About South Woodham Ferrers, organised as part of my fieldwork (fig. 5.1). Nevertheless, a new vision of suburbia cannot exclude the visual character, particularly relevant here in light of the legacy of the 1973 Essex Design Guide. In the earliest suburbs, areas such as Highbury Fields in London, suburban villas were of the “refined and elegant” Georgian style (p.26, Yorke, 2016), heavily referencing the “neoclassicism of the great mansions and buildings of the eighteenth century” (p.48, Barrett and Phillips, 1993) (fig. 5.2). Whilst suburban in terms of their dormitory nature characterised by a singular residential aspect and dependence on nearby urban centres, this style shares little with those succeeding it. Drawing heavily on classicism, this style possessed a loyalty to ideals of truth that would later be cast aside in preference of a more playful approach to decoration. Such villas are emblematic of the attempt to hide the villas’ semi-detachment through architectural techniques such as shared pediments and concealed front doors. In terraces, individual expression was “subjugated in favour of the unity of the row” (p.49, Barrett & Phillips, 1993). It is to this subjugation that Barrett and Phillips attribute the Georgian style’s loss of popularity, as an “anathema to [the middle classes’] desire for individual expression” (ibid.) This was followed by the High Victorian epoch, encompassing the Gothic (fig. 5.3) and Italianate styles (fig. 5.4). This era saw the renaissance of such adornment as quoining, polychromatic brickwork and pitched roofs. Following the severity and restraint of the Georgian era’s classicism, these much more flamboyant styles reintroduced a richly ornate character to suburban building. The Italianate style in particular was desirous of creating an atmosphere of power, following in the tradition of the great Renaissance buildings that sought to exert the power of families such as the Medici in Florence, as popularised by Queen Victoria’s Osborne House (fig. 5.5) (p.50, Barrett & Phillips, 1993). The Gothic meanwhile found popularity in the religious revival of the mid-1800s. Both proved popular for their depth of decorative possibility.
5 fig. 5.1 The poster for my fieldwork finale event
fig. 5.5 Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s Italianate palace
5 fig. 5.2 An original Georgian suburban villa, Highbury, London 1:50 fig. 5.3 Gothic 1:50 fig. 5.4 Italianate 1:50
5 fig. 5.9 Dunroamin 1:50 fig. 5.6 Domestic Revival 1:50 fig. 5.7 The Vernacular Suburb 1:50
5 fig. 5.9 Suntrap housing, the Modernist alternative to Dunroamin particularly prevalent in Essex 1:50 fig. 5.11 Late 20th century council suburban estate housing 1:50 fig. 5.10 Essex Design Housing on Redshank Crescent, South Woodham Ferrers 1:50
5 fig. 5.12 “Unsatisfactory suburbia” as according to the Essex Design Guide
The “secular” period following this “Christian epoch” (p.53, Jensen, 2007) was characterised by the Domestic Revival (fig. 5.6). This era of “the Vernacular Suburb,” (fig. 5.7) (p.81, Barrett & Phillips, 1993), encompassing the Aesthetic Movement, Arts and Crafts, Sweetness and Light and the Queen Anne style, represents crystallised perspectives of authentic British domestic character. Whereas there were marked differences between the styles, such as between the bombastic and extravagant adornment of the Aesthetic style and the more reserved style of the Arts and Crafts, each was deeply concerned with developing a national domestic character. The Queen Anne style in particular, developed by Norman Shaw in the 1870s, was concerned with the vernacular, inspired by a tour of rural Kent and Sussex. The result was “a curious but refreshing mixture of characteristics” (p.86, Barrett & Phillips, 1993). Though the styles that emerged in the Domestic Revival still embody British domestic character and continue to be heavily referenced today, at the time they were still very limited in terms of societal reach. The Arts and Crafts is an example of such idealism predetermining the success of the proposals: obsessed with a glorification of process and craft, the products of the movement were outside the means of all but the most welloff households. The years of the great suburban expansion following the First World War saw this change, the 3 million homes built between these years providing homes to many households who could never have dreamt of homeownership before. The new affordability of the Dunroamin period (fig. 5.8) was inevitably accompanied by glib bastardisations of earlier styles, coupled with a drop in quality, in the flippant repurposing of historical styles such as Mock Tudor. In the specific context of SWF, the Essex Design Guide is a further example of a historically referential style, formalising an interpretation of the Essex vernacular that has been widely influential nationally (fig. 5.10). Taking heavy inspiration from the historic villages of Essex, the Design Guide sought to create a unifying, local style that could be adopted throughout the county, in an effort to stay the tide of ‘bad suburbia’ being built in Essex in the late 20th century (fig. 5.11-5.12).
The facade, “quite literally, the face” (p.14, Heathcoate, 2012) is the second of Marcus’ two sites where self-actualisation occurs within the home, occupying a principle role as ‘“an individual expression of the life which is to environ’” (Ruskin as quoted p.333, Archer, 2005). As expounded in chapters one and two, part of the importance of suburbia and the reason for its emergence as Britain’s most popular housing form lies in the role that it plays in the suburbanite’s identity. The key importance of the facade, “the face of man,” (p.69, Olivier, 1977) in this process lies in the ability of the dweller to communicate his identity to those around him; through this communication the dialogic process of Jung’s conception of individuation is further established. This process manifests itself in a need for distinction in the outward appearance of the home from its neighbours. Beginning in interwar Dunroamin, it became increasingly necessary for each home to be visibly identifiable as its own unit, “express[ing] a degree of individuality without being too different from its neighbours” (p.125, Barrett & Phillips, 1993). The semidetached house offers a parable for the importance of distinct identity in the home. In the early years of suburbia the semi-detached house was adopted to provide the image of a much larger villa, the subdivision of the block carefully disguised. In later semis, such as the Domestic Revival, gables were used to unify the two halves and front doors were located apart from each other to give the impression of wholeness. However, beginning in the interwar Dunroamin the trend for individuation begins, as evident in the “proud claim of many estate developers advertising in the 1930s” of “‘no two houses the same’” (p.127, Barrett & Phillips). Nowadays, this trend for individuation is clearly visible in the careful carving up of many such earlier semis. All pretence of a larger block is discarded, no longer as important as the careful demarcation of territory (fig. 5.13-5.15). The lack of clear demarcation can perhaps explain the pervasive British aversion to flats. The clearly identifiable home is fundamental to the brief of the design proposals. The proposed homes need to allow personalisation both within and without particularly due to the exchange of spaces proposed to ensure ‘spare’ space is minimised. In the facade, the ambiguity created by the exchange of space necessitates a more aggressive performance of territory definition, where the fragment can be adopted and clearly expressed as now belonging to that dwelling, thereby redrawing rather than dissolving the boundaries between the distinct homes. Whilst such spatial exchange represents a challenge for how the boundary between the dwellings might be demarcated, and for the effective personalisation of the spaces over time, it equally engages the dwellers in a much more active process of territorial expression. This intensifies the identity-creating dialogue between dweller and dwelling and thus reinforces the process of self-actualisation.
fig. 5.13-5.15 Suburban instances of semis being carefully carved up to accentuate the two dwellings
5.1 fig. 5.16 Faux-timbering on 106 Hullbridge Road
fig. 5.17 Pargetting on 5 Troubridge Close
fig. 5.18 Weatherboarding on Glendale, one of the first testbeds for the town’s development
Despite the asserted need for individual expression, the suburbs are on the face of it a relatively homogenous environment. Underpinning this is how the character of this expression is modulated by the community aspirations of the suburbanite, seeking to express their identity just enough whilst still maintaining an aura of similarity with their neighbours and fellows. As asserted by Heathcote it is quite rare for someone to actually architecturally modify their home’s built fabric (p.61, 2012). Instead, the expression happens through other means: through myriad variations of varying subtlety based on a shared symbolic palette. Deployed with little thought given to technical concerns, their original purpose, or indeed any kind of function whatsoever, these symbols transcend their history and instead achieve importance as emblems of suburbanites’ nostalgic aspirations. These symbols are arrayed in pursuit of the greater goal of creating an atmosphere of a safe domestic environment where traditional values and the pleasures of old still reign. Functional meaning is thus joyfully abandoned; in its place, existential meaning. The timbering on 106 Hullbridge Road, for example, is conspicuously a later addition by its house-proud resident; it serves no purpose other than as decoration (fig. 5.16). More than this, its application is divorced from what decorative purpose it historically possessed, namely the display of wealth in the Tudor years when timber had become a rarified resource through deforestation. Perhaps Mr 106 Hullbridge Road vaguely associates timbering with a display of status, more likely he appreciates its ‘olde-worlde’ aesthetic. Another example is the use of pargetting, representing a buy-in to a pastoral vision of a particular East Anglian rural past (fig. 5.17). SWF is home to many such material choices that have their symbolic connotations far more to thank than their technical considerations. The popularity of weatherboarding in the town, for example, has far more to do with the Essexian image propagated by the 1973 Design Guide, and surely without the rural image it harks back to would have been swapped out by Bovis for a cheaper cladding system (fig. 5.18). In the history of suburbia the external aesthetic is defined by this use of symbol. To Olivier, the suburbs are the one place where the ancient practice of symbolic meaning is maintained. The “ugly and pretentious” “suburban villa” is, to him, where the last vestige “traces of authentic life” are visible, in how “each owner has created his own clearly defined world in the dimensions of today’s collective psyche” (p.122, 1977). Heathcote expresses doubt in Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious, questioning whether we do have “a reservoir of symbols and archetypes that have survived and thrived through our species for millennia” (p.9, 2012), yet he still appreciates that the suburban home is a simulacra of “domestic symbolism” (fig. 5.19) (p.21, ibid.). Very few of these symbols were created anew in suburban tradition, instead suburban aesthetics can be defined as magpied collage of historical references, in Osbert Lancaster’s derisory view, an “infernal amalgam” (as quoted p.125, Barrett & Phillips, 1993). Scalbert’s conception of bricolage, inspired by Lévi-Strauss, has already been considered. One of Lévi-Strauss’ own references is suburban: “Mr Wemmick’s suburban ‘castle’ in Dickens’ Great Expectations”, a castellated sanctuary to which he returns from clerk-life in the city (fig. 5.20). Just as how the builders of
Dunroamin and SWF played with a limited and shared set of references and elements, “the bricoleur works in a world that is closed and he makes do with what is at hand” (p. 108, Scalbert, 2013). In Adhocism: The Case for Improvisation (2013, first published 1972), Jencks and Silver present an “an early attempt at interpreting the practice of bricolage for architects” (p. 113, Scalbert, 2008). This theory posed the idea of “a world ‘built up from fragments of the past’” (p.114, ibid.). The parallel between Adhocism and suburbia lies in its democratisation and popularisation of design. Juncos asserts that the “intentional palimpsest of layers” is “radically democratic and pragmatic” (p.xviii, 2013). Within Jencks’ and Silver’s theory, the individual is empowered to engage with design, the daily creation and curation of their environment, as an everyday action. “Adhocism envisaged the decentralisation of design based on individual desire, a style appropriate to individual consumption” (p. 140, Scalbert, 2013). As a landscape defined by the pursuit of individual self-actualisation, and to many a territory conspicuously concerned with consumption, such a theory is pertinent. The popularisation of design and the ascension of the individual value judgements of the every-person to a platform usually reserved for the elite and aesthetes of cultural criticism also sit comfortably with both the history of suburbia and the new suburban future envisaged by this project. These symbols form a compendia, a “popular mythology” (p.11, Heathcoate, 2012), the collection of ‘fragments of the past’ combining to create an nostalgic and pastoral image of an idealised olden times. Each style explored in the brief suburban history above heavily relies on references to a time where life was seen as simpler. Suburbia’s whimsical deployment of symbol reinforces the psychological landscape of suburbia as one of escape or retreat from the complications and contingencies of modern life. In this way the use of symbol in the suburbs places pleasure above purpose. The history of a decorative element melts away in importance, all that matters the pastoral image of a romanticised past of traditional values and domestic bliss that it portrays. Such use of symbol, combined with the artificiality of the Picturesque landscape tradition, creates in the suburban experience an example of what Archer terms “constructive dreaming” (p.341, 2005), the manifestation of an imagined past or countryside based on “myths of things that may or may not have existed” (p.342, ibid.). However just as in his example of the American trend of “theming”, visible in such examples as Disneyland and New Urbanism projects like Seaside, Florida, it is reductive to condemn such myth-making as “inauthentic and escapist” as to do so dismisses the “reasons for its continuing popularity” (p.341, ibid.). Understanding the role of the home in the process of individuation offers a much more engaging perspective for the ongoing importance of such symbols in suburbia, both to the nostalgic narrative of the neighbourhoods as a whole and the process of identity creation and expression occurring within and without the suburban home.
5.1 fig. 5.19 Material symbolism in the Essex Design Guide
fig. 5.20 Mr Wemmick’s suburban castle
These symbols form a lexicon from which suburban housebuilders and suburbanites might select a number of safe in the knowledge that their individual song is being sung from a shared hymn sheet. Such a compendia has a modern equivalent in the catalogues of B&Q, Homebase and IKEA. The contradiction of individual expression occurring within a shared lexicon is not lost on suburban critics. Of particular excoriation is the connection between the suburb and mass-production. Far from the suburban house being “a material register of selfhood,” Archer recognises how many perspectives on suburbia focus on how the commodity culture from post-war 20th century “diminish[es] the individuality of each house, theoretically reducing its capacity to suit the individual resident, and becoming more of a mass commodity”; “stereotyp[ing] rather than individualise the resident” (p.136, 2008). That “our taste is dictated by the available or the existing” (p.61, Heathcoate, 2012) however does not necessarily remove the possibility for expression. Indeed, the importance of individual expression in the suburbs and their continuing popularity points to the inaccuracy of this criticism. Despite how the homes neighbourhoods in conception are formed from a simulacra of shared symbols, and in inhabitation and personalisation are adapted and embellished from the pages of the same catalogues, such a process of “pick’n’mix design” (p.61, Heathcoate, 2012) is curation rather than creation as is no less valuable or instrumental to self-actualisation.
Beyond the house lies the site of the many happy, sunny afternoons as pictured in the postcard image of the suburbs: the garden. Further to being the locale of scenes of enjoyment such as young children playing, a Sunday lunchtime barbecue or the quintessential suburban hobby of gardening, the garden is a deeper symbol of the pleasure principle within suburbia. Suburbia has been categorised as the ‘urbe in rus’ (fig. 5.21): an experiment in post-urbanity focused primarily around the attempt of a “marriage of town and country” (p.6, Fishman, 1989). The countryside, the destination of the suburban escape, is condensed in the suburban garden. In his book Dream Cottages (1988), Lyall explores the importance of the Picturesque tradition to British domestic history. Responsible for the naturalistic character of much of our parks and countryside, following a divergence from the formalism of the continental tradition in the late 18th century, the Picturesque sought a perfected vision of nature, concentrated around the consumption of nature through the careful orchestration of passage and views: a curated and deeply artificial creation of wilderness. Just as in the case of ornament and symbol on the suburban facade, such abstract concepts as truth were subjugated to the pleasure of the eye. Parks, gardens and landscapes were carefully primped, scripted and scened into elaborate stage sets of a fictionalised image of perfectly imperfect nature. That suburban style is “derived from the English concept of the Picturesque” (p.6, Fishman, 1989) is evident from its visibly heavy influence on the design SWF, clear in the carefully winding cul-de-sacs, emphasis on leafiness and the attentive irregularity of plots and houses. Such fiction mirrors the playful attitude to authenticity in the decoration of the suburban home. The suburbanite cares not for whether the timbering on his facade is doing anything remotely structural; it is there purely as a symbol from a compendia of such nostalgic references to create an atmosphere of pastoral security. What is important is the pleasure that is created: suburbia is an elaborate stage set to an imagined domestic bliss, but that it is so does not denigrate the need for such a paradise, or the fact that suburbia satisfies this need for so many. Suburbia’s rural ambitions should be understood as the further manifestation of key themes underpinning the suburban phenomenon: of defence, as provided by the buffer from the city and from each other; of autonomy and control allowed by the privacy of the single-family plot surrounded by Arcadia. Predictably in the suburban colonisation of the periphery of towns and cities an entirely new landscape was created, far removed from the Arcadian vision that these neighbourhoods purported to create: “a new kind of landscape [formed] out of the concentration of villas” (fig. 5.22) (p. 54, Fishman, 1989). Thus suburbia exists as a negotiated state between the denigrated metropolis and a glorified imagination of a very English conception of rurality: a “neither-nor” (p. 216-7, Archer, 2005). The attraction of the countryside, as the locus for the escape from
fig. 5.21 ‘Urb in rus’ in the Essex Design Guide
fig. 5.22 The reality of the garden in Collingwood
the metropolis, lay in its representing a place of security. Indeed, the idea of security and stability was a powerful one: the Picturesque style, representing an extrapolation of the rural vernacular, was â€œthe architecture of the simple lifeâ€? (p.19, Lyall, 1988). This historicism strengthens the conclusion that the suburban phenomenon represented a rejection of the recent changes in the city and the search for a return to a simpler time.
A New Suburbia
This research is seen as feeding into a broader debate surrounding the future of suburban neighbourhoods. In the wake of contemporary issues as varied and urgent as continuing urbanisation, economic slowdown and increasing environmental concerns, such research explores tactics for resilience. The popular cultural importance of the suburbs to the average Brit’s everyday experience of home sets a particular challenge to how we consider the suburbscape in the context of these threats. This consideration has further urgency as despite the suburbscape’s popularity they are typically sidelined or ignored in conversations about our settlements’ futures. This is understandable: architects had very little direct involvement in the suburbs, particularly the great swathes of Dunroamin that comprise archetypal suburbia. This is the territory of the builder; a nowhere-land of taste and design which the elites were never consulted about and, having lost the battle over, seemingly pretend they were never interested in the first place. Nevertheless, if we want to challenge and change how we dwell in our homes and neighbourhoods, and if we as a profession want to have an impact that genuinely affects the every-person, where better to start than in the suburb. The project Living Closer Together intends to honour this importance, raising suggestions for how suburban neighbourhoods might evolve and become more resilient, categorically not proposing the end of suburb through their urbanisation. It has therefore been the paramount concern of this thesis to establish a basis from which the aims of the broader project, namely spatial propositions for how we might better inhabit ‘spare’ residential space in and around our homes, can be developed in a manner considerate of and in direct response to the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the suburbscape. It is the intrinsic hypothesis of this thesis that a denser suburb is not an oxymoron: that there are specific moments that define suburban life that are amplified, not degraded, by a more equitable approach to spatial consumption. With this intention this thesis has investigated the suburban context of the proposals’ site, SWF, identifying key ideologies, spaces and processes that form a definition of suburbia from which the design proposals might evolve, and with which they can have a dialogue. Chapter two’s examination of the Suburban Dream spotlighted three key ideologies fundamental to suburbia past, present and future, ideologies which have gone on to structure the discussion of the three further considerations of the Suburban Home, the Suburban Polity and Suburban Style. The continuing importance of the family is visible in how it still represents to many the ideal child-rearing environment. In exploring the greater complexity of the family in contemporary times, characters were sought within the context of the town that could go on to inform the 77
typologies of the design proposals, thereby seeking to firmly ground the project in the lived experience of these neighbourhoods. The continuing obsession with pastoral imagery is epitomised in the deeply referential EDG itself. The role of this imagery in creating a nostalgic atmosphere of ‘the simple life’. In conceiving a new suburban vision, instead of unconscious harking back to a ‘better time’, we should focus our efforts on how we might make the future better. The feeling of security would be better provided through developing a mode of housing that is genuinely secure, achieved in the project through reintroducing equitability into housing by redressing our spatial consumption. The character of urbs in rure employed to achieve this pastoral image would also benefit from a reassessment that appreciates the compromise of the natural in a suburban environment. Of most import throughout the thesis has been the role of the home, and in particular the suburban home, in the process of the dweller’s identity creation. Through a continuing dialogue between dwelling and dweller, the process of self-actualisation is established and nurtured. Inspired Habraken’s work on individual expression and autonomy in urban contexts, this thesis sought to interrogate this topic within the context of suburbia and the still very homogenous SWF, identifying where, how and why the process manifests and thereby providing a framework for future speculation. The project’s proposed metabolism of exchanging ‘spare’ space intends to amplify this already active & performative relationship we have with our homes, thus intensifying existing processes of domestic identity creation and expression. On a wider scale, disassembling the town’s rigidity and reintroducing organic incremental growth through the collaborative, bottom-up process of iterative intensification is intended to rally the existing suburban community into a greater engagement with their built environment, fostering a broader popular discourse on our right to space. The home is where we have our most intimate and engaged relationship with the built environment around us. The project Living Closer Together seeks to contribute to the nascent architectural discourse engaging with suburbia in the UK, and with the nation’s homes and domestic history. By enquiring what suburbia is, what it means to be suburban and the contradictions inherent within, the foundations are laid and the playing field established for the next stage for design.
fig. 0.3 Manifesto posters proclaiming the ambitions of the project
List of Figures
Own drawings, 2018
Own drawing, 2016
Map of the original scheme from Neale, C. (1984) Planning & Development Case Study 3: South Woodham Ferrers. RICS Surveyors Publications; UK
Own mapping of the developers involved in the townâ€™s expansion, data courtesy of John Frankland
Own mapping of previous sales, data retrieved from Zoopla.com, 2017
Own mapping, 2018, using data from Datashine.org.uk
Own illustration drawing floorplans of homes for sale in the town available on Rightmove, 2017
Own mapping of the CCC Local Plan, 2017, using data retrieved from: Context Land Promotion (2016) Chelmsford Cityâ€™s New Local Plan: A time for change. 7th June, [online] Available from: http://context.land/?p=259 [Accessed on: 05/10/2017]
Own mapping of SLAA sites published by CCC, 2018, using data from Chelmsford City Council (2017) SLAA Annual Report. [online] Available from: goo.gl/ Aavk95 [Accessed on: 15/01/2018]
Own mapping, 2017
Own mapping of Chelmsford Borough, 2018
Own photo, Neighbourhood Plan Visioning Event, 31st August 2017
Own mapping, 2018
Own mapping of employment locations for early residents, data from ECC early resident questionnaires 1978-1985, courtesy of John Frankland
Own photos, 2017
Essex County Council South Woodham Ferrers Restrictive Covenants, courtesy of John Frankland
Design briefs developed by Essex County Council, courtesy of John Frankland
Own graphic mapping responses from the Essex County Council’s early years questionnaires of the previous homes of the town’s early residents, 19791986, data courtesy of John Frankland
Archive photo of a train station advert for the town, courtesy of John Frankland
Printed adverts for the town, courtesy of John Frankland
Maps from p.134-139 of London: The Unique City by Steen Eiler Rasmussen, 1934
Illustration from p.102 of Essex County Council (1973) Design Guide For Residential Areas; County Council of Essex
Own photos, 2017-2018
Own graphic analysing home ownership growth, data from: 1918: estimates by Alan Holmans of Cambridge University Department of Land Economy; 11939-1971: Housing Policy in Britain by Alan Holmans, table V1; 1981, 1991: Labour Force Survey by the Office for National Statistics; 2013-4: English Housing Survey full housing sample. Sourced from: Pettinger, T. (2018) History of UK Housing. Economics Help, 10th January, [online] Available from: https://www.economicshelp.org/ blog/15814/housing/uk-housing-history/ [Accessed on: 09/03/18]
Illustration of ‘Bypass Variegated’ by Osbert Lancaster, as reprinted p.42, Barrett, H. and Phillips, J. (1993) Suburban Style: The British Home, 1850-1960; Little, Brown and Company, 3rd ed.
Visualisation of a proposed garden village on the Essex-Hertfordshire border, available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38486907 [accessed on: 20/02/2018]
Own mapping, 2017
Own mapping, 2017
Illustration from p.63 of Essex County Council (1973) Design Guide For Residential Areas; County Council of Essex
Illustration of two designs from Designs for Parsonage Houses, Almshouses etc. by T. F. Hunt (1827), as printed p. 74, Lyall, S. (1988) Dream Cottages: From Cottage Ornée to Stockbroker Tudor: Two Hundred Years of the Cult of the Vernacular; Hale
Original map from Essex County Council showing plot envelopes of the Gandalfâ€™s Ride area, courtesy of John Frankland
Own photos, 2018
Own photos, 2017
Own mapping, 2017
Own illustration, 2018
Plan drawing of the Jean Hachette Complex, Ivry-sur-Seine, Paris (1970-75) by Jean Renaudie, sourced from Rinaldi, J. (publishing date unknown) Renaudie, Jean: Housing Complex, Ivry-sur-Seine. The Red List, [online] Available from: https://theredlist.com/wiki-2-19-879-606228877-view-renaudie-jean-profile-renaudie-jean-housing-complexivry-sur-seine.html [Accessed on: 06/03/2018]
Plans of apartments from the Jean Hachette Complex, Ivry-sur-Seine, Paris (1970-75) by Jean Renaudie, sourced from Lambert, L. (2010) The architecture of Jean Renaudie. Boiteaoutils, 28th April, [online] Available from: http://boiteaoutils.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/architecture-of-jeanrenaudie.html [Accessed on: 06/03/2018]
Archive photo of the Jean Hachette Complex, Ivry-sur-Seine, Paris (1970-75) by Jean Renaudie, sourced from Vaum Architects (2012) Renaudie & Gailhoustet 1969. Vaum Blog, 9th May, [online] Available from: http://vaumm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/renaudie-gailhoustet-1969. html?m=1 [Accessed on: 06/03/2018]
Own photos, 2018
Own graphic mapping the rise in women going out to work, data from ECC early resident questionnaires 1978-85, courtesy of John Frankland
Graphic analysing the distribution of household sizes nationally, data retrieved from Office for National Statistics (2017) Statistical bulletin: Families and Households: 2017. People, Population and Community, 9th November, [online] Available from: https://www.ons.gov. uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/families/ bulletins/familiesandhouseholds/2017 [Accessed on: 01/03/2018]
Own mapping, 2018
Graphic analysing the rise in single-person households nationally, data retrieved from Office for National Statistics (2017) Statistical bulletin: Families and Households: 2017. People, Population and Community, 9th November, [online] Available from: https:// www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/ birthsdeathsandmarriages/families/bulletins/familiesandhouseholds/2017 [Accessed on: 01/03/2018]
Own photo, 2018
Own photos, 2017
Illustrations from p.96 and p.97 of Essex County Council (1973) Design Guide For Residential Areas; County Council of Essex
Own map highlighting the maintained plotlands village within the expanded town, 2018
Own maps of the town’s historical development, data from OS Maps, 2017
Own diagram illustrating the “six domains of urbanity” from p.121-122 of Chermayeff, S. & Alexander, C. (1963) Community and Privacy: Towards an Architecture of Humanism. Doubleday Anchor; New York, NY
Own illustration, 2018
Illustration originally published in Burgess, E. & Park, R. (1925) The City. The University of Chicago Press; Chicago, IL, sourced from Florida, R. (2013) The Most Famous Models for How Cities Grow are Wrong. CityLab, [online] Available from: https://www.citylab.com/ design/2013/08/most-famous-models-how-cities-grow-arewrong/6414/ [Accessed on: 12/03/2018]
Own photo, 2017
Archive photos by the architects, sourced from Vandkunsten Architects (date unknown) The Successful Experiment: Tinggården, Herfølge, 1971-78. http://vandkunsten.com/en/projects/tinggaarden-en [Accessed on: 05/03/2018]
Own illustration, 2018
Own illustration, 2018
Archive photos by the architect, sourced Martínez García & Rivera Bajo (2017) Penn’s Landing Square. In: Hidden Architecture. 4th November. Available from: http://www.hiddenarchitecture.net/2017/11/penns-
landing-square.html [accessed on: 05/03/2017] fig. 4.20
Own illustration, 2018
Photo by Catherine Hyland, courtesy of Focal Point Gallery, sourced from McManus, D. (2017) ESSEX Architecture Weekend: The Modernist County. E-Architect, 10th June, [online] Available from: https:// www.e-architect.co.uk/england/essex-architecture-weekendmodernist-buildings [Accessed on: 12/03/2018]
Archive photo sourced from Bury, L. (2008) Demolition threat to Harlow’s Bishopsfield estate. Building Design, 2nd May, [online] Available from: https://www.bdonline.co.uk/news/demolition-threat-to-harlowsbishopsfield-estate/3112748.article [Accessed on: 08/03/2018]
Photo by Heinrich Buechel, sourced from Greeves, E. (2010) Neylan & Ungless. [online] Available from: http://emilygreeves.com/neylan-and-ungless/ [Accessed on: 06/03/2018]
Illustration by Maki, as reprinted p.327, Fernández Per, A. & Mozas, J (2013) 10 Stories of Collective Housing. a+t architecture publishers; Spain
Photo by the architect, sourced from Maki and Associates (publishing date unknown) Hillside Terrace Complex I-VI. [online] Available from: http://www.maki-and-associates.co.jp/details/index.html?pcd=8 [Accessed on: 06/03/2018]
Archive photo sourced from Artifice (2011) ArchitectureWeek No. 513. [online] Available from: http://www.architectureweek.com/newsletters/notes/ dats/513.dat. [Accessed on: 08/03/2018]
Own illustration, 2018
Illustrations by Maki, as reprinted p.330, Fernández Per, A. & Mozas, J (2013) 10 Stories of Collective Housing. a+t architecture publishers; Spain
Own illustration, 2018
Photo by James Drew Turner for the Guardian, sourced from Grahame, A. (2015) ‘This isn’t at all like London’: life in Walter Segal’s self-build ‘anarchist’ estate. The Guardian, Cities, 16th September, [online] Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/sep/16/anarchismcommunity-walter-segal-self-build-south-london-estate [Accessed on: 12/03/2018]
Own photo, 2017
Own map advertising the event Letâ€™s Talk About South Woodham Ferrers, organised in collaboration with DK-CM as part of my fieldwork, more information available from: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lets-talkabout-south-woodham-ferrers-tickets-39296253151#
Own illustrations, 2017
Archive photo from p.49 of Barrett, H. and Phillips, J. (1993) Suburban Style: The British Home, 1850-1960; Little, Brown and Company, 3rd ed.
Own illustrations, 2017-2018
Illustration from p.62 of Essex County Council (1973) Design Guide For Residential Areas; County Council of Essex
Own photos, 2018
Own photo, 2017
Photo sourced from Zoopla, Available from: goo.gl/rRorUQ [Accessed on: 12/03/2018]
Own photo, 2017
Illustration from p.73 of Essex County Council (1973) Design Guide For Residential Areas; County Council of Essex
Illustration by Edward Ardizzone, 1952, sourced from Brussat, D. (2014) Mr. Wemmickâ€™s castle. Architecture Here and There, 19th July [online] Available from: https://architecturehereandthere.com/2014/07/19/ wemmicks-castle-dickens/ [accessed on: 01/03/2018]
Illustration from p.8 of Essex County Council (2005) Design Guide for Residential Areas. County Council of Essex
Own photo, 2017
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Tim Burrows; writer on Essex involved with Radical Essex program, whose wife grew up in the town; interviewed at his wife’s mother’s house on Clements Green Lane, South Woodham Ferrers. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 15th May 2017. Peter Harris; campaigner for public land market; interviewed at the Booking Office, St Pancras Station, London. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 23rd May 2017 and 28th September 2017. John Frankland; early resident, Chair of Local History Society and planner at Essex County Council directly involved with the town expansion’s design and construction; interviewed at his home on Hamberts Road, South Woodham Ferrers. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 13th December 2017 and 24th January 2018. Guy Rochez; Placemaking Officer working on proposals for suburban intensification at London Borough of Croydon Council; interviewed at The Bermondsey Yard Cafe, London. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 24th November 2017. Kevin Green; town resident and Chair of South Woodham Action Group (SWAG); interviewed at Costa Coffee, Queen Elizabeth Square, South Woodham Ferrers. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 3rd December 2017. Tim Frankland; teacher at William de Ferrers School and grew up in the town; interviewed at his home in Maldon, Essex. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 9th January 2018. Jenny Robinson; Senior Planning Officer for Planning & Housing Policy in Directorate For Sustainable Communities at Chelmsford City Council; interviewed at Chelmsford City Council Offices, Duke Street, Chelmsford. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 12th January 2018. Thomas Dempsey; town resident and Champion of Built Environment Sector of the Neighbourhood Plan; interviewed at his home on Albert Road, South Woodham Ferrers. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 14th January 2018. Meg Dempsey; long-term resident; interviewed at her home on Albert Road, South Woodham Ferrers. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 14th January 2018. Alan Brunning; town resident; interviewed at his home on Redshank Crescent. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 24th January 2018. David Birch; town resident, member of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group and chair of the Steering Group Marketing Team; interviewed at his home on Woolards Way. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 24th January 2018.
Councillor Jackie Birch; town resident and Councillor of South Woodham Ferrers Town Council; interviewed at her home on Woolards Way. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 24th January 2018. Russ Crosbie; town resident and landlord of the Curlew Pub, Gandalfâ€™s Ride, South Woodham Ferrers; interviewed at the Curlew. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 24th January 2018. Tracey Chapman; town resident who grew up in the town; interviewed at her home on Spencer Court, South Woodham Ferrers. Interviewed by Emma Twine, 24th January 2018.