Politicians of all colours are advocating a new wave of mass housebuilding, with some calling for a million new homes in the UK before 2020. But whilst the policy wonks debate how best to ‘turn up the volume’, are there enough people worrying about what those homes will look like? Aesthetics play a large part in what makes a popular neighbourhood: it is no surprise that the Garden City concept is being revived by Government to try and make new mass housing schemes sound like a good thing rather than an imposition.
I am not advocating any kind of historicism for our new communities, but rather that we step back and consider how to reinterpret and include the generosity of detail and the attention to landscape which people find so appealing in older districts.
What stops new housing being beautiful? On the demand side of the market, the shortage of homes is such that the consumer is not at liberty to make qualitative choices: any home is better than none. If we blame the supply side, bad architects, poor clients, unskilled planners, uncaring contractors, the speed of delivery or the ‘cost of craft’ might be the culprits.
At Peabody, we have tried to overcome many of these issues over the years. We are now focusing hard on the lifelong cost and value of our new buildings in a bid to prove that beauty is a worthwhile investment, not an optional luxury.
Claire Bennie is the Development Director at Peabody