Saturday, 23 December 2017

A solution to our housing problems: kill the property porn shows

Last month, the new prime minister in New Zealand resolved to deal with its housing crisis by slowing down second home ownership:
Futures Forum: The New Zealand 'experiment' comes to an end with banning non-residents from buying housing

Four years ago, another New Zealander suggested something less drastic:


Jason Krupp 1 November, 2013

Fire the over-priced policy analysts, number crunchers and economics whizzes, because I’ve solved the housing affordability crisis.

The solution is obvious: we need to ban home improvement shows.

The Block, Dream Home, My House Rules, and Location, Location, Location all need to be scrapped, and the television producers behind them closely monitored to make sure they don’t schedule another season of Grand Designs. While we are at it, we should jail hosts Mark Richardson and Kevin McCloud, just to be on the safe side, because these are the people responsible for stoking the dream of home ownership...

Kill the property porn shows to fix housing | The New Zealand Initiative

Meanwhile back in the UK, last month the property porn programme to beat them all  hosted the 'House of the Year':
Grand Designs: House of the Year - All 4

Courtesy of the Royal Institute of British Architects:
RIBA House of the Year 2017

A couple of the shortlisted entries looked rather inspiring:
Futures Forum: RIBA House of the Year shortlist > Woodsman's Treehouse, Dorset
Futures Forum: RIBA House of the Year shortlist > Cob Corner, Devon

The verdict on the actual winner was not exactly positive from the non-architectural fraternity:

'It's grotesque!' Grand Designs viewers brand 21st century country mansion big enough for THREE generations to live in as 'ugly and pretentious' - despite it being named House of the Year 2017


PUBLISHED: 22:04 GMT, 28 November 2017

The sprawling Caring Wood, nestled in the Kent countryside, has been crowned House of the Year 2017: The new-build, dubbed a '21st century country mansion, is home to three generations of the same family

But some viewers said the property was 'indulgent' and there were other more worthy winners on the list: On Twitter, one called the house 'grotesque' while another said it was 'ugly' outside and 'mundane' inside 

The impressed judges noted it allows us to question the 'future of housing and of multi-generational living': The home beat shortlisted properties to take home the title on Tuesday night's episode of Grand Designs

Grand Designs House of the Year 2017 is revealed | Daily Mail Online 

This is 'property porn' according to the Independent's critic:

TV review, Grand Designs: House of the Year (Channel 4): When minimalism is just too much

Sean O'Grady Monday 27 November 2017

A house but not a home? Kevin McCloud is charming and knowledgeable, but their remains something unsettling about the sums of money thrown into properties Channel 4

Property porn, still legal, I’m afraid, whether in print, digital or video format usually has a deeply unsettling effect on me, a mixture of deep envy and queasiness at the obscene amounts of money lavished (ie wasted) on the conspicuous consumption of the wealthy. That, I think, is why I’ve never cared that much for Grand Designs, despite the unpretentious charm and knowledge of its host, Kevin McCloud, and the sometimes spectacular displays of exquisite taste that we are treated to. It’s also beautifully photographed and engagingly put together as it follows the Royal Institute of British Architect's shortlisting of the residential property build of the year. For what is, in essence, a real estate version of The Apprentice it is all very sensitively executed and the rococo excitements of guessing who the winner might be rather well supported by a solid flying buttress of middle-class British reserve. (Not a structurally sound metaphor, I know, but all I could manage, guv).

So I don’t want to come over all Jeremy Corbyn about what I suppose we must now call “lifestyle” television, but I cannot help it. This year more than most, I would have thought that, what with all the coverage e of the housing crisis and the plight of the millennials dominating public discourse and dinner party conversations, the RIBA might have shown a bit more care in their choice House of The Year 2017. But, no they were, with their traditional tin ear (or maybe that should be modernist tin ear) for public opinion and an arrogance that you’d think must be some sort of professional entry qualification to design permanent structures in the United Kingdom.

Thus, they chose Caring Wood, which looks like something out of a Dr Seuss book, all random pointiness and witches’ hat peaks, the higgledy-piggledy scarlet buildings sticking out of the countryside at curious angles. Apparently designed for occupation by three generations of what, I assume, is an especially well-heeled dynasty in Kent with Pharoanic delusions, it’s set in 84 acres of ancient woodland and is larger than most council estates. It’s all traditional materials, its asymmetric shapes and colours inspired by old Kent oasthouses, and rendered with some chutzpah, I must say, by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell. It will never, I suggest, qualify for the Help to Buy scheme, and I just found the whole spectacle deeply demoralising.

I doubt that the rival entry “Hidden House”, a one-story dwelling tucked away on a tiny plot on a former school yard in central London, would be within reach of most first-time buyers either, but at least this was showing some invention and ingenuity entirely focussed on today’s cramped times. In this case the architects and builders had shown an extraordinary combination of craftsmanship and imagination to create a living space on the site of an old caretaker’s shed. It was minimalist, yes, but there was an obvious point to its minimalism. However, like so many of the other homes on display there seemed an obsession with hiding away all the untidiness and detritus of life behind great big oak screens. Architecture is designed to stand the test of time, and so I wonder what a future generation will make of our paranoia about having a stranger accidentally encounter a pair of discarded socks or some Lego in our beautiful show homes.

These houses, as McCloud noted, resembled galleries or museums, not lived-in homes. It is not healthy. Perhaps the British have succumbed in their obsession with real estate to some sort of property mental plague, a disease on such a scale that only a truly violent housing crash could cure it. There’s a Grand Design for you. 

TV review, Grand Designs: House of the Year (Channel 4): When minimalism is just too much | The Independent

It is possible to have architecture prizes which are a little less property porn...
Futures Forum: Sustainable Project of the Year > architecture awards name best sustainable building > it's all about green infrastucture

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