Regionally Responsive Approaches to Residential Design in England

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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During the 20th Century, concern started to grow that the towns of England were losing their individual identity. This unease became most evident in the development of new houses. The aim of the study is therefore to produce a framework that encapsulates recommendations to assist in the development of regionally responsive houses. The research is located in England, and specifically in the market towns of the North East. This is because Northumberland is perceived as a remote county, and therefore strongly expressive of the region. Within the county, the market towns are centres of traditional lifestyles, and therefore places where regionalism is most likely to be found. The focus is on domestic architecture, as this is individuals’ most immediate and personal interaction with the built environment. An early part of the study was to investigate the concepts of regionalism and regional architecture. The history of regionalism has been a transition from local methods to increasingly standardised approaches to design. This has resulted in a loss of identity through the use of design strategies that are not context driven. It is a lack of focus on region that makes similar architectural responses ubiquitous. Without a concerted focus on specific places, the nuances of climate, culture, and materiality cannot be sufficiently explored. Although there has been significant research into variation of architectural response and material use, there is no overall picture of the significance of vernacular architecture. However, as these houses are historic by nature, questions emerge about their relevance and whether they are replicable. The neo-vernacular revival may be a

The study confirms the widely-held belief that speculative housebuilders dominate the market for new homes in England. These housebuilders started to produce the same houses all over the country, with little challenge from development control. The response was residential design guides, which aim to preserve the unique qualities of the built environment that have contributed to the character of market towns. However, their consistent emphasis on the past, does not offer the basis for developing a framework that can deliver contemporary regionally-expressive domestic architecture. Thus, a fundamental appraisal of home was undertaken, as a means of unpacking positive interaction between people, place and building that can form a set of socio-cultural values. The purpose of the appraisal was to identify aspects that may contribute to regional identity. This was applied in terms of the development of market towns in England, and a system for the architectural analysis of their houses. Corbridge in Northumberland, was selected as a typical market town, and the system was employed to assess its houses. The outcomes were verified by similar analyses of schemes in three other market towns in the region. Residents in all four towns were interviewed to determine the factors that influenced their purchase of the houses. Architects, planners and house developers were also interviewed to determine their perspectives. All parts of the study contributed to the framework, which is organised in terms of historical context, geographical context and design considerations based on the architectural analysis.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Northumbria University
  • Giddings, Bob, Supervisor
  • Roberts, Stephen, Supervisor
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Aug 2016


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