1960-2003

Home ownership grew rapidly from 1950 with most speculative housing following the pattern of detached and semi-detached houses built to average densities of around ten dwellings per acre.

In 1961 Parker Morris was commissioned to produce a report on the way housing should address the needs of the modern family. He concluded that there should be more living and circulation space mainly split into an area for quiet and leisure activity, and an area for eating, but the latter could be an enlargement of the kitchen.

The room ‘saved for best’ was no longer considered essential, and the introduction of central heating meant that bedrooms could be used by children for other activities rather than just sleeping. With the ousting of the front parlour, the homeowner needed other ways of displaying his stature in life, and this became evident with the new car in front of the garage, or the foreign holiday just taken.

Unfortunately architects lost sight of design and style and concentrated on producing houses at a very low cost, which also echoed the desires of local councils to produce low cost housing. Some might say that the resulting architecture was as close to the’Modernist’movement that we ever saw in the UK, but what really happened was by taking the ease of construction, using concrete, picture windows and cladding, without the overall concept of ‘Modernist’, we finished up with thousands of characterless boring houses. This is perhaps one of our darkest times in housing, and apart from demolition, we are stuck with it, or are we? (read more)

Tower blocks or high-rise living was never popular in the UK, mainly because people were forced to live in them whilst the terraces they had grown up in were demolished. Now many tower blocks have been demolished, but some that remain have recently become trendy with the young professionals who regard them these ex-council flats as good value for money with great views. (read more)

1973 saw the miner’s strike and OPEC raising oil prices with the knock-on effect of highlighting energy efficiency of homes. One way to improve the ‘U’ value (the rate of heat loss is measured in this way) was to reduce the size of windows and double-glaze them. From 1995 new houses had to conform to a given SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure) for the overall floor area.
Self-build is surprisingly uncommon in the UK, a study in 1992 showed that only 6% of houses were built in this way compared to 60% in Germany and 20% in the United States. Private ownership did increase and by 1997, 67% of the total housing stock was privately owned.

Right to buy was introduced by the Conservative government, and by 1982 some 200,000 council houses had been sold with considerable discounts. By 1986 over a million houses had been sold, it was ‘ The sale of the Century’.

Today 85% of new homes are covered by a NHBC (National House-Building Council) warranty, with the general design and layouts being far more flexible, but design tends to be a sanitised version of past periods of architecture, a little bit taken from here and there. Apart from rare occasions such as seaside towns, do we see ‘Modernist’ architecture making an appearance; mainly domestic homes are a collection of styles fighting with each other, all crammed into a tight space.

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