Architect John MacAslan speaking on affordable housing crises

John MacAslan, from a Dunoon family, is an architect whose charitable trust and whose personal creative and organisational energies, with those of his wife, Dava Sagenkahn, has given the town the opportunity to reclaim the service to the community of the historic Dunoon Burgh Hall.

He is an architect whose London-based international practice is not only responsible for a spectrum of exciting projects across the world but has done service in designing housing for post-disaster humanitarian crises like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

In late September, Mr McAslan addressed an audience at the British Library, focused on the housing crisis in New York and London. This is worth listening to – online here – for its forensic analysis of the nature of the housing challenge and for its proposals.

In his thinking on this, the architect distilled practical and achievable approaches to the issue of urgently needed affordable housing into ten points – which have been the subject of an article in the Architects Journal here.

The ten points themselves are:

  1. Government must recognise the housing crisis as a suitable case for exceptional measures and come forward with a co-ordinated housing strategy.
  2. Greater focus on building homes on empty sites without threatening the green belt.
  3. Tougher regulations should force developers to build out higher quality permissioned schemes within a specific period.
  4. Micro-housing is here to stay.  The Collective and Pocket Living will provide good quality, affordable living for hundreds of thousands of people across the capital.
  5. Build medium-rise developments as an alternative to vertical residential housing. Existing housing blocks should also be renovated and adapted.
  6. Co-housing should be encouraged.
  7. New use classes should be created to facilitate the adaptation of redundant buildings in housing and live/work units. In London there is vast amounts of space about low-rise shops which could be converted into flats and live/work
  8. More firmly regulated rent differentials using means tested rental models.
  9. Local authorities should become co-developers of social and affordable housing.
  10. Design quality of housing is crucial. This is not just about aesthetics – well-designed homes contribute to the quality of domestic life.

Housing – and affordable housing in expensive cities – is very ,uch an issue of today. The city of Oxford has recently featured nationally as one where housing is so expensive that the workers necessary to keep the place going – and the students necessary to maintain the world nenowned university – cannot afford to live there or in its immediate hinterland.

Beyond the physical need for housing, John MacAslan’s emphasis on the need for attention to aesthetics to protect the quality of domestic life is a rare humanitarian note that housing associations and local authorities require never to forget.

If we pen people like pigs we shape the way they view their own lives and we shape their conduct of their lives.

Argyll has had a couple of interesting affordable housing projects lately – one in historic [not local authority] Argyll – at the Ardtornish Estate in Morvern, in conjunction with Roderick James and Carpenter Oak; and one at Ulva Ferry on Mull. There, in partnership with Mull and Iona Community Trust, the Ulva School Community Association [USCA] is tackling head-on the deep rooted problems of population decline, a falling school roll and lack of economic opportunities in the Ulva Ferry area, by building two affordable rental homes, which will be owned by the community and let to local families. The project has been developed by local firm, Thorne Wyness Architects.

Both of these initiatives have worked to design buildings with a specific aesthetic and to create open internal spaces that maximmise variety of use and which do not immediately confine.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Just to add to John McAslan’s track record, when he won the international competition for the redesign of Glasgow’s George Square in 2013 and Gordon Matheson, leader of the City Council, immediately cancelled the project (having undermining the process, his own city officials and the competition jury – and thus the competition – both then and at an earlier stage), Mr McAslan went out into the square to explain his design to the media (not many other people around, it was a very wet day).
    Thank God Dunoon isn’t Glasgow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Robert Wakeham October 23, 2015 7:55 pm Reply
    • Dunoon may not be Glasgow but Dick Walsh is definitely in the same category as Matheson; a council leader running the place like he owned it.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

      db October 23, 2015 9:55 pm Reply
  • Could I pass on my best wishes to both the Ulva and Ardtornish projects .
    As a housing worker I find it frustrating the almost obsessive defence of the green belt arguement.I have the privelage of living in the joint glens of Glencruitten and Glenlonan to the north east of Oban depopulated for many years but thanks to planning consents in the last ten years fourteen new homes have been built and the two school minibuses are full in the mornings . It was not the same when I was a boy there in the 1970,s If you walk on the old tracks through these two Glens you see the old ruins where our ancestors were two centuries ago.At Ardconnel where I live you can clearly see in the meadow from my front window an 18th century stone pattern of house ,cattle byre and enclosure.Any time I hear the term defend our beautiful wilderness my hackles rise That wilderness is not green belt it is where our people lived and should live again .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

    Alastair MacGregor October 23, 2015 10:05 pm Reply
    • Apologies for the typo long week

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

      Alastair MacGregor October 23, 2015 11:32 pm Reply
    • Argyll & Bute(and rural Scotland generally) is ill-served by the planning system.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

      db October 23, 2015 11:53 pm Reply
  • The biggest problem in the supply of houses in rural scotland is that most local people cannot afford to build them or mortgage them. Why? because their wages are too low and costs have gone through the roof. Mortgages are only available when you have built a wind and water tight building on the land you had the cash to buy in the first place. So no matter what planning system is in place the housing crisis in this country will not be solved unless public money is put into building affordable homes for people on a far bigger scale than we do now. Or all standards are abandoned and we go back to living in slums or shacks. Or people get paid a lot more. Given the government we now have in Scotland and the UK it looks like it’s shacks as being the only option for rural Scotland.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    TonyB October 24, 2015 1:14 am Reply

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