The RIBA's ‘Ten Characteristics of Places Where People Want to Live’ combines a series of case studies that illustrate components of contemporary community housing design. This study was completed to identify and analyze specific, successful elements of past projects that can be easily incorporated into future projects not only in England but also internationally.
The study hopes to demonstrate to its readers the relationship between design quality and the rate of supply in the delivery of much needed well-built affordable housing. Each building example illustrates how appealing and successful design can be easily replicated.
“The necessary context for successful place-making is often neglected, but only by addressing this can we improve both the quality of the homes we are building and the rate of supply. High-quality design is essential, but it must be founded upon the right leadership, the right funding and delivery models.”
- Ben Derbyshire, RIBA President
1. The Right Place for the Right Housing
Location often plays a primary role in the choice of a new-build home. A visually-appealing setting is alluring, but proximity to existing, enhanced or new local services such as schools, green open spaces, retail, and employment opportunities are also essential. The ‘right place’ is also a place with physical connectivity – an area that is connected to nearby social, cultural, and economic hubs.
2. A Place to Start and a Place to Stay
The study describes the importance of the neighborhood, which incorporates a mix of uses and tenures around spaces for social interaction to promote community inclusion, cohesion, and resilience. A successful design establishes housing as part of a ‘complete place,’ which also offers mixed-use areas as well as places to shop, socialize, and relax. These shared amenities support an inclusive community life and allow people to take collective ownership of the spaces.
3. A Place that Fosters a Sense of Belonging
A neighborhood can create and foster a distinct visual identity that evolves from its immediate environmental, social, and historical context. These elements add to the creation of a "coherent, authentic and unique sense of place." The composition of new housing should respect and enhance the landscape’s character by complimenting existing buildings.
4. A Place to Live in Nature
Nature is a crucial part of a new neighborhood. New housing should sit in the existing natural context and enhance existing environmental features, habitats, and biodiversity. The inhabitants should have access to nature and green open spaces in the new community. There are a variety of accessible green spaces such as parks, village greens, garden squares, and shared gardens that encourage community interaction, horticulture, and active outdoor living.
5. A Place to Enjoy and be Proud Of
Developments are built to encompass ‘townscape principles of hierarchy,’ taking into consideration the scale, composition, vistas, and elements of surprise, throughout the new settlement, each creating visual interest for the residents and visitors. Larger houses and apartment buildings are positioned to capture attention. Diversity in scale and design can contrast and compliment along streets, creating a dialogue with each other.
6. A Place With a Choice in Homes
Most developments can be designed to be adaptable over time, responding to a community or an individual’s changing needs. The study highlights that "empowering communities to participate in the process of designing and building out their own homes has the potential to produce higher quality housing that responds to local needs and therefore increases build-out rates."
7. A Place With Unique and Lasting Appeal
"Inherently authentic, memorable and delightful, new housing has a locally-rooted character drawn from its surroundings, but also a strong identity of its own." These are not the standard residential housing types which result in ‘anywhere’ places; they take contextualization into great consideration, shaping their structural identities. A coherent sense of place allows for individuality. Individualized architectural elements include balconies, roof terraces, and projecting bays. Windows can be sized and arranged to create a pleasing balance of solid to void, just another contributor to the ‘personality’ of each home.
8. A Place Where People Feel at Home
Inside, homes should be well proportioned and practically laid out, usually utilizing a free-flowing plan while also offering corners for retreat and privacy. Self-finishing can be done by individual occupants so that interiors can be easily customized and personalized to draw more deeply on what ‘home’ means to an individual occupant while maintaining the controlled variety of the streetscape.
9. A Sustainable Place for Future Generations
"Environmentally sustainable places will not only play their part in a low-carbon future but will provide a legacy which coming generations will be proud of." In our own time, homes in healthy, clean, resource-efficient neighborhoods are more likely to attract potential owners. These housing schemes provide ideal locations for shared transport schemes that provide a viable alternative to car ownership. Innovative parking strategies, adaptable to a future reduction in car-use, can be integrated into the design.
10. A Place Where People Thrive
Homes can have a positive impact on the wellbeing of the people by creating healthier, more comfortable and more spacious interior environments. Home design can optimize solar impact through window size as all living spaces receive sunlight, benefiting inhabitants physically and mentally as well as providing a source of heat. Ideal window placement can also provide good views while maintaining personal privacy.
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