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Housing Design Awards

2009 WINNING SCHEMES > Historic Winner

Windmill Green
Ditchingham, Norfolk

HISTORIC WINNER

Architect
Tayler and Green

Developer
Loddon Rural District Council

Contractor
Harvey & Leech

Planning Authority
Loddon Rural District Council

 

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Windmill Green
Windmill Green
Windmill Green
Windmill Green
Windmill Green
Windmill Green

Three Simple, Straight Terraces of Council Houses...
There’s something appealingly domestic and matter-of-fact about Windmill Green in the south Norfolk village of Ditchingham. It comprises a trio of simple, straight, unassuming terraces of 2-storey council houses. It was developed within the constraints of the post-war austerity period of the late 1940s. Yet it inconspicuously packs in innovations and subtleties that make it remarkably liveable and suited to its particular site and village setting.

The first innovation by the Lowestoft architect, Tayler and Green, was the terrace format itself. This overturned the dreary norm for rural council houses in the 1930s and 40s, which was to string them out as plodding rows of semi-detached lumps. Instead, the 30 family houses of Windmill Green have been gathered together into continuous strips that bring cohesion, while also reverting to the long-established building tradition of East Anglian towns and villages.

Next, the three terraces have been arranged in a loose horseshoe formation embracing a large central green, which was planted with trees and effectively serves as the scheme’s own village green. A narrow slip road and footpath pick their separate ways around the green, and lock-up garages have been tucked nearly out of sight in one corner.

The communal green and large front and rear gardens lower the density to 16 dwellings per hectare. The houses take advantage of the low density by being broad fronted, which gives them plenty of window space for daylight and views, as well as generous room sizes. Within the shallow 6.3 m depth, Tayler and Green ingeniously worked out 14 plan types that cater both for different family sizes and different orientations. Living rooms invariably face south or west to catch the sunlight, either at the front or the rear of the house.

Another innovation here is a passage that ducks through every house from front to back. The through passage widens out into a storeroom, which Tayler and Green devised specially for agricultural workers and their muddy boots, gardening tools and firewood

 

....Embracing Their Own Village Green
Cheap, utility post-war building construction was tweaked for maximum practical and architectural effect, wherever possible within local traditions. Plain common bricks were used for external walls, but these were visually lifted in the East Anglian manner by colour washes in various pastel shades. The shallow-pitched, pantiled roofs likewise belong to the local vernacular, and their wide-overhanging eaves protect the walls below. Front porches, supported on a pair of spindly tubular steel posts, are deep enough to provide shelter. The front windows are extended in a matching pattern by timber trellises that support climbing plants.

After 60 years of serving its residents, Windmill Green shows no signs of obsolescence. Its enduring popularity is openly demonstrated in the luxuriant front gardens and, behind that, in the fact that 60% of residents have exercised their right to buy.

The biggest change is that more housing has been added along the fourth side of the central green, cutting off views to the open countryside. At a stroke, this has turned a rural setting into an urban one, yet it in no way undermines the scheme’s central concept of the shared public green. The narrow slip road around the green provides ample parking space to absorb rising car ownership. As for the houses themselves, they have been improved to Decent Homes standards, and the original steel windows replaced in double glazing with upvc frames to match.

Despite having been officially listed Grade II in 1998, Windmill Green is no architectural antique. Six decades after it was built, local authorities are once again being exhorted to replenish the housing stock. This scheme shows how to build housing to low budgets without sacrificing public amenity, conviviality, daylight, sunlight and a distinct sense of place - all of which lift the quality of life.

Tayler and Green Box Story

Windmill Green was the first of seven schemes designed by Tayler and Green to win Housing Design Awards and Commendations over 26 years. Its developer, Loddon Rural District Council, was likewise responsible for four of these award-winners. After Herbert Tayler and David Green, the practice’s two partners, retired in the 1970s, it evolved into OWL Architects, while Loddon’s housing stock was transferred to Saffron Housing Trust in 2004.