Common language

/ Chris Simmonds / Places to live

What is the future of the places we live in? How are they going to change, develop and evolve? We see two broadly related futures, the first is a need for a fresh partnership between the public and private sectors, and the second the development of a homogeneous model of building that embraces and does not differentiate tenure type. In respect of the public private relationship the recent opening of New Gorbals Housing Association’s 201 unit housing project at Laurieston highlights one potential model amongst many – that is for the public sector to assemble land, prepare a masterplan and seek private sector partners, in this case Urban Union, to redevelop the land with an element of publicly funded affordable houses to kick start and build confidence in the opportunity.

Reflecting on this work highlights significant evidence to show that each on their own meet only certain aspects of the need. The private sector will of its own accord serve the available purchasing power and parallel financial liquidity of its market audience. The public sector depends not so much on the ability to extract capital from purchasers or lenders, but accountability on how much is spent on each unit with essentially the result of a certain defensive homogeneity in what is delivered. The result is that in isolation these models serve to reinforce the divisions in our society - by providing for one cultural group alone, blocks of our cities become culturally identified and therefore stigmatised. The Laurieston blend is a positive one then in seeking to blur the lines between the different tenure and funding types.

Crucial to that is the idea that whatever the tenure, the houses should not be identifiable as one or the other. In that respect the tenemental form of the city was a brilliant leveler. By defining the street, protecting the private court and exploiting the benefits of urban life by adopting a common materiality and embellishment such as the bay window, the city was able to achieve an underlying coherence whilst serving different income and age groups. The next question we ask is whether we can extend this universally equitable model including into our suburbs and whether an associated development of components, in the spirit of the bay window, a new generation of components - balconies, living spaces and shared play spaces - might reflect an acceptable new common language of where we live?

Laurieston tenement block