Despite the growth we’re continuing to see across the construction industry, the fact remains that we’re not simply building enough houses. One solution that was put forth by the then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in 2014 was the construction of three garden cities at various locations across the country. The number of new homes that these developments would provide would play a vital role in reaching the 200,000 – 250,000 annual target that is needed in the UK.
However, garden cities have received mixed reviews since the utopian ideal was first thought up in 1898 by Ebenezer Howard. The original idea had as much to do with the social values of the residents as it did the aesthetic qualities of the city itself. Howard came up with the concept as an alternative to the industrial slums that had taken over the big cities causing urban sprawl and pockets of extreme poverty: a situation that resonates today, over 100 years later.
One of the dominant founding principles for garden cities was that they be green, planned and secure places with characterful houses, not just an urban jungle where people are living on top of each other in the fight for real estate. It is these founding ideals that decide the success or failure of any attempt to create a garden city.
The roof is a key characteristic of a house when it comes to projecting individuality. It is the most noticeable feature of a building and can often be seen for miles before the rest of the house. At Redland we know this and have spent years perfecting the diversity of our tile ranges to suit both the regional and personal preferences of our customers. The importance of variation is never more pronounced than when viewing the roofscape of a large city: it is what sets one house apart from the next and what essentially gives the city its character.
When planning the roofscape of a new town or city, there are a number of things to take into account if the mistakes of previous attempts are not to be repeated; first and foremost is colour; there should always be variation in the tones and shades of the tiles that are used to create the illusion of an older town. The shape of the tiles used on the roof coupled with the degree of weathering help to inspire a nostalgic landscape that adds character. Ultimately, a mix of all these things is needed if the garden cities are to escape the monotone landscape they have become synonymous with.
At Redland, we produce a number of tiles that can help to avoid these pitfalls, carrying a wide range of different tile types, profiles and colours which we often encourage our customers to “mix-up” on new housebuilding sites to create visual interest and variation. And much of the product line offers the mellowed aesthetics of aging through colour effects and a variation of tones without having to wait for the slow passage of time.
For instance, our Rosemary Clay Craftsman plain tile features a variable hanging length and authentic natural textures to create a heritage weathered look, while retaining all the qualities and benefits of a brand new tile. And our Landmark range uses a revolutionary ColourFusion™ manufacturing process to capture the beauty of traditional materials in a finish which will weather naturally over time.
One new town that didn’t quite meet expectation is Cumbernauld in Scotland. Although the residents of the city are reportedly happy living there, the aesthetics of the area have become the butt of many a joke and has earned the unfortunate looking town two Carbuncle awards for being the ‘Most Dismal Place in Scotland’.
Milton Keynes is another new city created in the last 50 years. It has since been growing steadily in popularity and is particularly attractive for those who work in London but are unable to pay the steep housing prices offered in the capital. That said, the monotonous roofscape and general lack of character is seen by many to be an issue. There is little variation of building design in the entire city and many feel there to be a lack of cultural input or personality. That may be changing now but surely it would be better all-round if it was done right in the first place?
Ebbsfleet is set to become Britain’s newest garden city, with George Osborne announcing that the new settlement will provide 15,000 homes in its initial phase. The local residents have stated that they want the area to be regenerated and there is already the infrastructure in place to provide a fully functioning town. But can the housebuilders charged with the task of erecting Ebbsfleet avoid the same pitfalls as their predecessors and maintain a visually appealing landscape while keeping costs low?
There have been many mistakes made in the past when the visual impact of the garden city has been compromised in a bid to save money. It will always be cheaper to buy in bulk which is ok if we’re talking about a small housing development but when it comes to an entire city – there needs to be a lot of variation to make it attractive.
With all but the very rich being priced out of the property market in the larger cities, garden cities have the potential to be the perfect solution but only if handled sensitively. The notion of a uniform town is not something that the majority of people will find appealing and it is up to the government and the housebuilders themselves to find a happy medium between cost and aesthetic quality.
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