Pathways through the Particular

The Building Site

We all know too many high streets which look the same, housing estates which could be anywhere, industrial and business parks which feel as though they all link up with each other underground.Localities must always be open to outside influence, new people, ideas, activities, design and just as nature keeps experimenting, they must face the paradox of persistence and change.But change may enrich or it may homogenize and diminish. How can we ensure that we achieve the best of the new, as new developments, massive and minute, make their impact felt across the country? New design does not have to be deferential, the new does not have to replicate the old. The Mellors Cutlery Factory in Derbyshire and the Tate at St Ives, and are both buildings which please the architectural fraternity and the locals. Their scale, references and materials are comprehensible, they do not detract from the feel of the place, on the contrary they add a positive dynamism. You can read an extract from Sue Clifford's essay 'The Tick Tock of the New' on this web-site.

Both remind us of previous built forms that they replace, in both instances gas works, and their roundness tells the story. Using what has gone before is not gratuitous, with care a new layer has been added. Proud but not arrogant, they have a dignity based on knowing where they are, adding rather than competing. The creation of new local distinctiveness here is offering continuity, in challenging, contemporary yet sympathetic ways.

Please tell us of good new developments - tell us what you feel about them and how they add to the particularity of the place. Tell us of examples of the old and the new which you find interesting and meaningful. We are very keen to have good examples of conversions, extensions, new buildings and whole developments of housing or industrial buildings that reinforce local distinctiveness. These may be new buildings which reference local materials, scale/form/volume etc, but we are also keen to know of examples of 'nonconforming' new builds which nevertheless intensify the feel of the local in a different way (and it would be a joy if they were energy efficient/sustainable too).

Take a look at the web library of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (successor to the Fine Art Commission). Look at what LODIS is achieving in Chester. See also David Oliver "Local Distinctiveness in New Housing: The West Dorset Approach"

See an example of a Village Design Statement from Bonsall, Derbyshire.

Picture credits:
Left: Mellors Cutlery Factory, designed by Michael Hopkins & Partners, opened in 1989. Picture by permission Mark Fiennes.
Right: The Tate St Ives overlooking Porthmeor Beach, designed by Eldred Evans & David Shalef opened in 1993. Picture by permission of Tate Photography.