‘Rogers Dumped from Oxley Park’

Last week Buidling Design magazine covered Taylor Wimpey’s decision to abandon the last phase of their much published development at Oxley Park in Milton Keynes, designed by architectural mega-star Richard Rogers.  Their leader focussed on issues of construction and delivery, but in the article Wimpey also reported that ‘Demand for these properties has not met with our expectations’. I highlighted this in a letter published in this week’s edition.

The letter is here (behind BD’s pay-wall, I’m afraid) but the original text was as follows:

Dear BD,

In your leader last week you viewed the dumping of RSHP’s Oxley Park designs primarily through the prism of Modern Methods of Construction. ‘Meeting Code 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes is far from straightforward using traditional forms of construction’ you claim. This isn’t the case. Timber-framed homes with pitched roofs can meet Code 4 very easily – and it has pretty much no impact on what they look like. RSHP clearly have an aesthetic preference for their work, but it seems not enough punters ‘got it’ to make it worthwhile Wimpey building the last phase – as the article explains.

Commenting on-line Lee Mallet claims ‘Architects have chosen not to engage with house-builders, and vice versa, for many decades’. Again: not true. All the major house-builders have worked with well-known architects over the last decade notably (but not solely) in the Design for Manufacture (£60k House) Competition. Some have ended up with expensive dead-ends (sorry: culs-de-sac!) but others have found architects who are genuinely interested in the modest, understated middle-ground where there really might be a mass-market for contemporary architect-designed homes – stick-built on site if that’s the most practical way; why not? We’ve had a go (see ‘Hus 22’ at www.lucashickmansmith.co.uk; all sold!) or if you want ‘names’ skip the superstars and go to Buschow Henley, Proctor Matthews, Glen Howells, Malcolm Frazer, Sean Harrington…

In an article on Norfolk’s 1950s architectural anti-heroes Tayler and Green, Alan Powers identified ‘a refusal to indulge the unhomely’ as their defining characteristic. If the quiet revolution in UK housing is to continue we need more refuseniks!

In the context of Ruralise you can see I’m hinting at my contention that housing in general and rural housing in particular perhaps needs a more modest approach from architects – see my posts on Hunsett Mill and Stable Acre

Alternatively read about ‘Grant Shapps and the New Normal’ here.

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