FANN-XI: Some Answers

If you’re here because you saw the Ruralise board in the FANN-XI architecture festival exhibition at the Forum (FANN-Board-Ruralise-110909), it occurs to me you might actually be expecting some answers to the rhetorical questions I used to give a flavour of what Ruralise is about. So here goes:

What is the Community Right to Build (CRTB)?
When the Localism Bill eventually becomes law, it will create the right for communities to give the go-ahead for modest-scaled developments in their community, without the need for a conventional planning permission – if a simple majority of local residents voting in a formal referendum support the idea. There is plenty of discussion on Ruralise about the Community Right to Build. Start here if you want to find out more.

How much value could the CRTB add to a piece of land?
The CRTB should allow communities to capture more of the value generated by development for the benefit of their community. A detailed worked-example on Ruralise tried to illustrate how much.

Why aren’t architects interested in the countryside?
Planning policy in Britain over the last 15 years has focussed on the regeneration of our cities. Dense, urban living is regarded as more sustainable than dispersed car-dependant rural lifestyles – to such an extent that it is almost impossible to build in the countryside. It is therefore not surprising that the architectural profession feels more at home ‘in town’.

Can rural development be sustainable?
Densely planned development in towns and cities makes public transport viable, which reduces a city dweller’s carbon foot-print. Rural living is car-dependant – but it can also be sustainable in ways that urban living will struggle to match. Read more on rural sustainability here.

What is Norfolk made of?
Throughout history most buildings have been made of whatever grows on or can be scraped out of the ground on which they stand: timber, clay bricks and pan-tiles, reed and straw, some flint. Building today with such ‘local’ materials can re-connect buildings to the landscape they sit in – and reduce their carbon footprint. Ruralise has touched on local materials on a number of occasions; try this….

Why are normal buildings so special?
By definition, most buildings are ‘normal’; most of the buildings we see around us in the countryside are ‘normal’ houses. But architects are mostly taught to want to design special buildings that will shock impress or amuse. We need to re-kindle our interest in normal buildings.

Is the future thatched?
Maybe it is! Ruralise’s most-read post, moth after month, has been ‘Thatch-Fest!’

What does ‘local distinctiveness’ really mean?
Somehow the idea that new development should be locally distinctive has become common sense, which is great; but what does that actually mean? Ruralise has some thoughts on the subject here.

Should buildings ‘fit in’?
When should buildings ‘fit in’? Always? Never? Sometimes, suggests Ruralise, here.

Why are roofs more important than walls in Norfolk?
The steeply pitched roofs of Norfolk’s traditional houses were originally thatched. Today they are mostly covered in pan-tiles and nestle into the trees and hedgerows which divide the rolling landscape into fields. Norfolk is a county of big skies, big fields and big roofs. More on ‘Roofs Across Fields’ here.

What can a wide-fronted house do that others can’t?
Traditional rural houses are mostly two or three rooms wide and only one room deep. The wide-fronted house has some big advantages over the narrow-fronted semi or terrace that modern architects have preferred. Read more here.

What is a Norfolk village really like?
For the most part Norfolk villages are quite unlike the ‘chocolate-box’ images that most house-builders use to demonstrate the local-distinctiveness of their latest development. Read about ‘villages on steroids’ here.

Is it a ‘shub’ or a ‘pop’?
In the context of the Community Right to Build I’ve written a bit about pubs and shops, and about a pub that’s also shop – here.

Why can’t farm buildings be beautiful?
It’s a good question, asked by a columnist at Farmers Weekly. See Ruralise’s thoughts on the subject here.

Who are Tayler & Green? Why do they matter?
Bright young things Tayler and Green left London in 1945 to pursue their career ‘in the sticks’. Over the following 30 years they designed nearly 700 council houses for Loddon Rural District Council, over a hundred of which are now listed. There is more to come about Tayler and Green this autumn, but for the time being try this.

What can we learn from the Isle of Skye?
Architects Dualchas Building Design decided to set up shop on the Isle of Skye, rather than in Glasgow, because they believed the island deserved better-designed houses than it was getting. Their work suggests how contemporary design can respond to the local vernacular, without being slaved to it. More here.

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