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Contemporary Vernacular Design: How British Housing Can Rediscover its Soul

Clare Nash

  • Format: Book

  • Pages: 240

  • Publisher: RIBA Publishing

  • Date Published: Nov 2016

  • Stock Code: 83986

  • ISBN: 9781859465844

  • Binding: Paperback

Average Rating:
Your Rating:
Total rating: 4.21 out of 5
Total votes: 14

Description

Across the UK are poorly designed, brick-box housing schemes that look the same whether in Northampton or Southampton – often in a naïve attempt to replicate the ‘traditional’. So amid demands to deliver thousands of affordable new homes fast and within strict energy targets, have we lost sight of what really makes a house a home? And when the UK is such a rich composition of diversity, why can’t this be evident in our housing?

Contemporary Vernacular Design shows that it can. Selecting key examples from around the world, it presents 25 housing schemes that draw on traditional vernacular principles whilst taking into account modern day materials, methods and financial or energy requirements. These are schemes that ‘fit’ their surroundings; homes that generate a sense of place, community and regional identity.

Through first-hand site visits and interviews with both architects and residents, each case-study explores how the schemes were delivered, how they have been received by the community, and how passive principles of vernacular design were applied to create true sustainability. All framed within a wider discussion on what vernacular architecture really is today, this book provides an insightful response to the question, how can British housing rediscover its soul?

Customer Reviews

Graham Bizley

Date Reviewed: November 2018

This is an excellent book that is both a useful reference for those involved with the design of housing, and a challenge to them to up their game. Pushing past the issue of style, Clare Nash explores the lessons that can be learned from vernacular buildings in order to create living environments that are more comfortable, sustainable and appropriate to their location than the typical developer fare. While most of the case studies are designed by architects, and are not really vernacular, they provide valuable inspiration and feedback to groups of people who might be wanting to build their own homes. In the first section she discusses the state of house building in Britain, the meaning of the vernacular, and how a contemporary interpretation of it might inform and improve the design of contemporary housing. The rest of the book is made up of 25 case studies of housing and co-housing schemes in the UK and abroad that follow elements of a vernacular approach. The argument is passionately made and compelling. In many ways it is common sense, but as the author asks, why are the projects in the book so unusual in the UK? The obstacles to wider adaptation of this approach are mainly political. UK government policy stubbornly continues to rely on and subsidise volume house builders, propagating mediocre design and ubiquitous environments as a solution to the housing shortage. In time, with the right political will, with dissemination of knowledge and the design ethos espoused in this book, a true contemporary vernacular might emerge.

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