Over the last five years, as summarized by 2012’s publication of ‘the New London Housing Vernacular’ by Design for Homes, housebuilders and architects have come to a certain degree of consensus around the materials, proportions and detailing which fall loosely within the NLHV terminology.
There has been some debate as to whether this will have a long term positive impact on urban London built fabric. Will the NLHV create a new and much appreciated layer of architectural history on a par with Georgian and Victorian residential architecture? Those advocating this approach certainly feel that after decades of experimentation, the enduring popular appeal of ‘period’ properties speaks for itself. However the NLHV report also points out that the qualities appreciated in 18th and 19th century properties have as much to do with generosity of space and window proportion. In that sense, the NLHV is seeking to develop a benchmark in terms of quality which is an extension of the London Housing Design Guide, seeking to influence the market so that this period of house building leaves a durable, high quality legacy.
However, the NLHV should not be adopted as a restrictive design code which ignores the need to respond to changing lifestyles, the need for higher density and innovation in the form of off-site construction and lightweight materials. Furthermore, London’s evident diversity and choice should be acknowledged with potentially different characters or ‘vernaculars’ emerging, whether futuristic, contextual, modest or flamboyant.