14th Mar 2017 — Homing In

Homing In

A people focused approach to housing design

Joanne Preston


A house is a thing—a building where somebody might live. A home on the other hand, can refer to the building but also the less concrete aspects of a place. In theory, we can have a house and not feel at home, just as we can think of home as the place where we grew up but no longer live.

To feel at home is to inhabit a space in the world, to feel part of a community and to have an emotional connection to its site and setting. If we consider the homing pigeon’s innate desire to always return to its territory, then to design homes is to design memorable places, where people instinctively feel they belong and will always be welcome.

In 2015 the private rental sector accounted for 22% of all UK households. This percentage has risen steadily since the 1980s and this trajectory is expected to continue. In 2015 there were 5.4 million households privately renting in the UK and in 2025 there will be 7.2 million. The on-the-ground reality is that keys change hands more regularly and communities are more transient.

With living situations becoming increasingly precarious for many, the challenge we face as architects is to ‘home in’ on the positive and most characterful aspects of a place, to scope out the opportunities present in every site and brief—to build homes, not houses.