When the Awards Committee began a relaunch of the awards with Design for Homes in 2005, I asked for a new format book with more space to publish plans and layouts. This is the DNA of residential development and is the virtue of the Awards spending to publish a winnersí book and supporting this with the promotion of all shortlisted entries online.
The judges visited more schemes this year than ever before, witnessing a much greater depth of ingenuity than seen in recent years. It also means we saw how a lot more of those plans and layouts have been built. As the market started to weaken last year, some schemes have clearly run down the specification of common parts. There was an uncomfortable impression that budget earmarked for landscaping had been treated as though it were a contingency fund for the buildings.
So one happy surprise this year is a clutch of schemes where the public realm and communal areas were comprehensively specified and planted. Generous slices of land given over as public amenity and the quality of its specification made the public realm as vital as the homes next to them. One such scheme was Londonís Barking Central where a new civic square between Barking town hall and refurbished public library meets a graceful arcade leading off the busy high street. The judges found themselves fascinated by this emerging public realm, part of a neighbourhood wide renewal programme by Redrow Regeneration which is still overshadowed by scaffolding and piling rigs. They look forward to returning at a later date to see the neighbourhood completed.
Another was the Park Central development in Birmingham where the size of the local play area suggested it might be more reasonably called a park. This was part of a string of public realm features, including a long teardrop shaped park with a reflecting pool. We are sometimes more in debt to the people who carve out such spaces for us to stroll or sit in far more than the architects who shaped the buildings round them. These spaces have a knack of getting better and better over the years through the maturity of their planting and the weathering of good quality hard landscaping.
This has been the story each year we have made an Historic Winner and this year, buoyed by the highest ever number of entries, we selected six schemes from the past to make this point, each in its own distinct way. One look at any of the six schemes some 11 years to 55 years after each was first occupied strikes home the interdependency of internal plan, external layout and landscaping. They simply donít work in isolation. I commend this as the lesson of the first 60 years of this unparalleled Awards programme.
Awards Committee Chairman