We’re delighted to announce that this November will be “Building Beautiful Month” at Policy Exchange, the next stage of our efforts to address the housing crisis, the major domestic policy issue of the day. It is part of a new focus on Place – one of our four Ps, along with Prosperity, People and Patriotism, that guides our research. We will hold three important public events, with speakers including Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and Housing Minister Kit Malthouse MP, and publish an essay collection on how the right sort of architecture and building can help to solve the housing supply crisis.
The focus of the month will be – in practical and economic terms – how new homes can be built in the ways the public like and want. We hope you will join us, and add your voice to the conversation, at our events during Building Beautiful Month:
- Marwa Al-Sabouni speaking on “The Loss of Home”, 13:00-14:00 on Thursday 1st November. Marwa is a practising Syrian architect, whose book, The Battle for Home, was published to acclaim in 2016. She lives in Homs and has seen first-hand, through the prism of the Syrian civil war, how the wrong kind of built environment can lead to social breakdown and even conflict, an aspect of the war that has been utterly overlooked in the West. Marwa’s talk will offer insights into the Syrian housing crisis, before and during the civil war, and crucially what lessons can be learnt from it in the UK’s cities. Before her talk, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP will meet Marwa and her mentor, Sir Roger Scruton, accompanying both of them on a tour of London that looks at some of the capital’s best and worst architecture. Sir Roger Scruton will also speak in conversation with Marwa after her speech, which will be introduced by Tom Tugendhat MP, who represents Tonbridge and Malling, a constituency where the green belt is cherished and people are suspicious of new developments changing their community’s character.
- Colin Amery Memorial Lecture delivered by Sir Roger Scruton on “The Fabric of the City” with an introduction and vote of thanks by Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, 18:00-19:00 on Wednesday 14th November. Focusing on the rights and wrongs of aesthetic judgement (and whether we’ve had enough of experts in this area), Sir Roger’s lecture will honour the memory of Colin Amery, who died in August. Colin was a pre-eminent architectural historian. Through his journalism and books, he championed popular architecture, campaigned for the preservation of historic buildings (for instance large parts of Spitalfields in London) and fought against the ugly redevelopment of British towns. The event will consider how Amery’s legacy can inform housing policy today and how the resistance to an agenda that focuses on popular design and style can be overcome.
- Building More, Building Beautiful conference, 18:30-20:30 on Monday 19th November. Following our report of the same name, with speakers including Kit Malthouse MP, the Housing Minister, Ben Derbyshire, the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Anne Ashworth, Assistant Editor at The Times, Dr Demetri Porphyrios, architect and masterplanner for the King’s Cross Central redevelopment, Paul Finch OBE, Editorial Director of Architects’ Journal, and Roger Madelin CBE, Head of Canada Water Development at British Land, this event will bring together house builders and architects to debate some of the questions we set out in the report: what is the public’s preference when it comes to the designs and styles of new homes? Should we care what the public think? And – in practical and economic terms – how can new homes be built in the ways the public like and want?
The Building Beautiful Month follows our recent housing publications, including:
Building More, Building Beautiful
Our agenda-setting poll and report showed the public are much more likely to consent to new homes when they are built in designs and styles that are popular. As the government takes to its aim of building 300,000 new homes per year, the report puts forward a policy programme for design and style to be a more prominent part of the housebuilding process. Some of this programme has already been adopted by government – for instance the much stronger emphasis on design quality in the National Policy Planning Framework – yet there is more to be done, for instance greater local authority adoption design codes and style guides.
In this report we argue for the redevelopment of London’s Boxland into genuinely mixed use neighbourhoods where people want to live. We define Boxland as plots in London which are currently dominated by industrial and retail uses in the shape of ‘big box’, single storey sheds. Boxland could be used more efficiently by combining commercial and residential uses in a more efficient manner in traditional street patterns.