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:
- Government must recognise the housing crisis as a suitable case for exceptional measures and come forward with a co-ordinated housing strategy.
- Greater focus on building homes on empty sites without threatening the green belt.
- Tougher regulations should force developers to build out higher quality permissioned schemes within a specific period.
- 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.
- Build medium-rise developments as an alternative to vertical residential housing. Existing housing blocks should also be renovated and adapted.
- Co-housing should be encouraged.
- 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
- More firmly regulated rent differentials using means tested rental models.
- Local authorities should become co-developers of social and affordable housing.
- 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.