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This Tuesday, we finally finished the Housing Alternatives module, which enhanced our understanding of current housing forms in the UK, like custom-build, co-housing, modern methods of construction, future homes and so on. But one missing alternative among all is social housing. I happened to visit an exhibition, named “A Home for All”, held by the V&A and RIBA Architecture Partnership in London. The display aims to explore the role of architecture in addressing ‘housing crisis’ by presenting six pioneering projects in social housing. I will briefly introduce the six experiments, and you can click the title of each project for more information if you feel interested in them.


Berthold Lubetkin & Tecton / 1946-1949

It is one of the first social housing projects in London, whose main feature is health and hygiene because it is built on the site of a popular 18th-century spa. 126 flats in 3 blocks possess adequate sunshine, fresh air and nice view, which were luxury for ordinary living at post-war times. Therefore, it is regarded as “a radically generous social housing for its time”.

Fig.1 Spa Green illustrated in Houses (Margaret & Alexander Potters, 1948) (Source: Municipal Dreams)

Denys Lasdun & Partners / 1957-1959

It is a tower block of cluster housing. This project demonstrates how to accommodate as much as residents on limited site without disturbing the neighbourhoods since government was confronted with high demand of housing in the mid 1950s. Compared to terraced houses, “hanging gardens” are incorporated into each unit in order to offer the similar experience of traditional backyard.

Fig.2 Keeling House (Source: Simon Phipps)

Ralph Erskine / 1969-1982

It is arguably acknowledged as the best social housing projects in the 1970s. Different from the brutalist buildings at that time, it not only was unique in design, but also solved the common problems of social housing, including the mix of high-density and low-density houses, the integration of new and old residences, the relocation of original residents, and public participation.

Fig.3 Exhibition of Byker Estate in V&A Museum (Source: Author’s own, 2019)

Nabeel Hamdi & Nicolas Wilkinson / 1971-1979

Actually, it is a toolkit enables participators to participate actively in the design process of their own homes. It’s quite similar to what we called Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). The design method adopts “soft zones” which allow dwellers to personalize their homes’ layout with the guidance of professionals, like architects. PSSHAK home is a basic shell equipped with all essentials like wires and pipes. The shell could be sub-divided to accommodate different dwellings.

Fig.4 Description of PSSHAK from V&A and RIBA (Source: Author’s own, 2019)

Neave Brown / 1972-1978

It is a pioneering example of high-density, low-rise housing at that time when calling for the return of traditional terraced housing, in which each dwelling has individual front door. Besides, it is also a credible example to overcome the challenge of railway nearby, as well as fit into the site with a “social street” between two liner blocks.

Fig.5 Rowley Way of Alexandra Road Estate (Source: Martin Charles)

Mary Duggan Architects / 2017-present

This scheme leads social housing to a brand-new vision, living within nature. The five housing blocks are like pavilions within a landscape. Each block is different in shape and has a mix of tenures that also meet the BfL 12 criteria of blind tenures. Each dwelling has the totally equal access to the communal space as they are surrounded by nature. Similar to the Spa Green’s concept, this proposal aims to build a healthy neighbourhood.

Fig.6 Model of Lions Green Road project (Source: Brick X Brick)

Throughout all above, I found there are some interesting similarities to current mainstream in housing design. For example, Byker Estate shows a good example of co-design, while PSSHAK is a practical combination between MMC and custom-build. All these projects and scheme demonstrate the possibility of designing a home for everyone in various ways, which call our attention to emphasize the goal and encourage further exploration.



[1] Bertrand Suazo, M., (1989). Participation and residential design. INVI Magazine, 4(8), pp.60-67.

[2] Brick X Brick., (2017). Lion Green Road. [online]. Available at <> [Accessed on 19 May 2019].

[3] Hidden Architecture., (2017). Keeling House. [online]. Available at <> [Accessed on 19 May 2019].

[4] Municipal Dreams., (2013). The Alexandra Road Estate, Camden: ‘a magical moment for English housing’. [online]. Available at <> [Accessed on 19 May 2019].

[5] Municipal Dreams., (2013). The Byker Estate, Newcastle: ‘ground-breaking design and a pioneering model of public participation’. [online]. Available at <> [Accessed on 19 May 2019].

[6] Municipal Dreams., (2013). The Spa Green Estate, Finsbury: ‘an outstanding advance in municipal housing…one of the showpieces of London’. [online]. Available at <> [Accessed on 19 May 2019].

[7] RIBA., (2018). A home for all: six experiments in social housing. [online]. Available at <> [Accessed on 19 May 2019].

[8] Walsh, N. P., (2018). 6 radical experiments in social housing exhibited by the RIBA and V&A. [online]. Available at <> [Accessed on 19 May 2019].

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

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