I sometimes wonder if there is an unspoken hierarchy in the design of housing. At the bottom of the hierarchy you have the smallest type of dwelling: the studio flat (in the UK, at least); then the one, two, three or four bedroom flat. You also have the terraced house, the semi-detached house and the detached house. Most housing in the UK falls into one of these types.
You can probably guess which housing type occupies the most prominent position in architectural history (see an earlier post for the answer).
Unlike many Western European countries, England and Wales do not have minimum space standards for housing mandated by law. The exception is London where housing that receives any funding from Government must meet the minimum space standards set out in the London Housing Design Guide.
Why do housing space standards matter? Without space standards, landlords, housebuilders and property investors get away with providing tiny or inadequate space in their properties. When there is no agreement on what is acceptable as a minimum size for a property, landlords and housebuilders can do as they please.
The staircase is often a prominent architectural feature in large, spacious, detached houses. However, in volume or mass housing (such as terraced homes and two-storey flats) the staircase can be problematic: it takes up valuable space and affects the layout and size of rooms in the design of the dwelling.
This post looks at some of the different ways in which the staircase can be placed inside compact terraced homes and two-storey flats, and how this affects the layout of a dwelling.
It’s been exactly five years since I started this blog, so you could say this is an anniversary post of sorts.
I thought it might be interesting to revisit a question implied in my first blog post five years ago: does domestic or volume housing fall under the field of architecture? It’s not a rhetorical question. Most of the built environment is housing and for much of the past few hundred years the majority of domestic housing has not been designed by architects. That was the surprising fact (to me at least) that launched this blog five years ago. (See the first blog post Architecture and Domestic Housing for more on this.)
New build flats in Britain are dominated by open plan layouts. How does this affect the design of these homes? In flats, an open plan layout usually means a combined kitchen/dining/living space.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of open plan layouts?
Tour Bois-le-Pretre. Photo by Frédéric Druot.
Here is a wonderful and inspiring example of how a 1960s social housing block in Paris called Tour Bois-le-Pretre has been transformed through a remarkable renovation effort. Three French architects – Frédéric Druot, Anne Lacaton, and Jean Philippe Vassal – had the foresight and imagination to propose an inspired alternative to demolition: one that would give each apartment more natural light, more space and cut energy costs.
“Houses and housing standards are a measure of a country’s present achievement as well as an important part of its future. We shape that future while surrounded by dwellings built by past generations, recalling both their triumphs and their mistakes.
It is part of our responsibility to learn what we can from the past and the present and to try and predict, as far as we can, what future needs will be.”
From: Houses and People – a review of the user studies at the Building Research Station (1966)
Research is an important part of architectural practice and can take many forms. A subject can be studied from different perspectives: historical, cultural, social, scientific or technical. When it comes to housing, research can help inform the design and layout of homes based on people’s thoughts about their living spaces. How do we learn about people’s expectations and aspirations around housing?
This is a short review of a small, free exhibition about housing called A Place to Call Home which is now on at the RIBA headquarters in London and runs until 28 April 2012. The exhibition ties in with the RIBA’s Homewise campaign for better homes which was launched in September 2011.
England and Wales have no national space standards for homes (in contrast to many contries in Western Europe). Better space standards are not a guarantee of better housing design, but they are an essential foundation for any newly built home and their importance should not be underestimated.
Earlier this year (September 2011), the RIBA launched a new campaign called Homewise to improve the design and space standards for new homes. Accompanying the launch was a report called The Case for Space. The report examined the internal floor area of homes from a sample built by the eight largest volume housebuilders in England. Not surprisingly, it found these homes fell short of the space standards recommended in the London Housing Design Guide (which the report considers the best available current benchmark for space standards).