Creative engagement with rural housing
“Planning policy statement 3 (housing) states that local authorities should be aiming to create: ‘Places, streets and spaces which meet the needs of people, are visually attractive, safe, accessible, functional, inclusive, have their own distinctive identity and maintain and improve local character’”
Building for Life, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (2008)
A shortage of affordable homes in Dorset is predicted by the County Council over the coming years which may lead to employment recruitment and retention problems. Factors influencing this situation include a new inward migration to the countryside from urban centres, increasing second home ownership and an aging population demanding more accessible and supported housing (and who will also need more carers who need low cost housing). Equally newly formed households and young single people starting out need new affordable housing provision. Although the main reason for the lack of affordable housing stock, high house prices, shows signs of being alleviated Dorset still faces issues such lack of development land and large conservation areas.
The solution to these problems will only come through new thinking about housing and housing design. For example lack of land and greater single occupancy has led to a decrease in the space available per housing unit on most builds – how can new design make houses feel bigger, or overlap/join domestic and civic spaces ? How can houses be thought of and designed to be not only environmentally friendly, but positively beneficial, e.g. using renewable energy, better water management systems or making space for local flora and fauna ?
In addressing this agenda it is also essential to look at the character of houses, a major factor in their appeal. The challenge in sensitive rural environments is how to respect local character without simply repeating what has gone before, throwing together pastiches of historical styles. Can there be ways of creating new vernacular architectures which are distinct, functional, socially sensitive and attractive ? There is certainly no doubt that good design adds to both the quality of the built environment and potentially adds value to new and refurbished housing stock in a difficult housing market.
As part of this mix artists and craftspeople can contribute both ideas and knowledge of materials to projects. Ways this might be achieved include:
• Involvement in masterplanning, consultation and community planning processes
• Looking at architectural detailing, lighting, shared furniture and communal spaces such as gardens
• Encouraging community cohesion though local art interventions
• Developing new ways of using domestic spaces, for instance a major contribution to national health would be encouragement for residents to grow food in their domestic spaces
Theme case studies
A review of recent experience in building individual and small groups of houses with a view to sustainability, the use of traditional and new materials, and innovative design.