Over 100 years ago, the founding father of the Garden City Movement, Ebenezer Howard, bravely challenged the intolerable living and social conditions that existed in certain parts of Britain at that time and became the catalyst for bringing about monumental change to improve the quality of lives for millions of people in the UK and subsequently throughout many countries.
Today, Ebenezer Howard would have no doubt been delighted to see his beloved Letchworth Garden City – the world's first Garden City - at the forefront of a renewed special housing challenge in the City - again in the form of an International Housing Design Competition.
This culminated in an awards evening on Wednesday night in the Garden City's magnificent Spirella Ballroom, when the 12th Duke of Devonshire repeated history of over 100 years ago, when his ancestor, the eighth Duke of Devonshire, presented prizes to winning entries for innovative, 'ahead of their time,' designs in an international housing competition.
Today's competition – launched in RIBA's headquarters in London on February 1, 2007, by the Duke - mirrored the Housing Design Competition of the early 1900's in the Garden City, which led to over 130 'Cheap Cottages' – at a maximum of cost of £150 - being built. The covering exhibition at that time attracted some 60,000 visitors. The exhibition was repeated in 1907.
This year's competition attracted 67 global entries from architects and academics alike – from as far as USA, Japan, Thailand and Australia. There was a £25,000 cash prize fund.
Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation and North Hertfordshire Homes are now looking to incorporate the winning design in a development of 60 affordable homes on a site to be leased to NHH by the Foundation. North Hertfordshire Homes – project partners in the competition with the Foundation and one of the largest Registered Social Landlords in Hertfordshire, anticipates starting the development in 2008.
On Wednesday night, the Duke said: " It gives me enormous pride that I too, have had the opportunity to renew my family's association with the town, and in particular, with such pioneering innovation.
" People living in Letchworth Garden City have so much to be proud of. The 'Cottage' exhibitions and this new competition are testament to the energy, inspiration and zeal that resides here."
Stuart Kenny, the Foundation's Director General said: "Just as the first Cheap Cottages exhibitions, indeed the Garden City itself, provided the solutions to problems of the time, we in 2007 needed to address serious problems of the modern age. No surprise then, that 100 years on, housing continues to be a major challenge, albeit the drivers and triggers are somewhat different."
He added that the shared ambition of competition organisers RIBA, the co-sponsors, North Hertfordshire Homes and the Foundation was to "deliver high quality, environmentally, groundbreaking housing."
The challenge to housing practitioners was to deliver designs along the following lines:
• Providing a range of property types and sizes for sale or rent to local people at affordable prices
• Receiving an 'EcoHomes' rating of 'excellent.'
• Achieving a specific energy benchmark of 'Low Carbon' (GLA definition) or at least Code 3 ('Sustainable homes.'
• Achieving low annual running costs, low lifetime costs and generally value for money
• Incorporating attractive features and architecture which reflects the town's status as the world's first Garden City
• Social sustainability to include adaptability, quality, smart house etc..
The Technical judging panel (to create a short list), consisted of Lynne Sullivan ( Broadway Malyan); Peter Chlapowski (PCKO); Tricia Craggs (Heritage Foundation) and Teresa Gore (North Hertfordshire Homes.) The final judging panel consisted of Mr Kenny, Kevin Thompson, CEO of North Hertfordshire Homes; Dickon Robinson from CABE, Peter Chlapowski and Lynne Sullivan.
The winners were:
Winner Stride Treglown – architects from Bristol
Alex McCartney from Treglown's said after the receiving the award: " We entered because Rob, ( Robert Delius), has done some good work on eco-homes in the past and it looked like an exciting project. For the Garden City, we talked about something that's really from the earth, I think what's interesting about this competition is that it's also about affordable homes."
2nd Prize – Project 35 Architects, London
Bell Phillips Architects, London and Draisci-Caputo Architects, London
Winner – Robert Haworth, London
He said after the event: " I think a lot of student competitions are pie in the sky and this is quite down to earth. I thought it was good opportunity to learn about the arts and craft movement and improve my own knowledge of sustainable construction. I'm over the moon to win."