The redevelopment of Horatia House and Leamington House must reflect some of the most prevailing crises we face today; climate change, a mental health crisis and a housing shortage crisis.
As one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, buildings must be made to not only meet minimum environmental standards but to set a precedent for what can be achieved with careful innovation, thought and planning.
It’s time to move on from poorly made, unattractive, towering accommodation that encourages a culture of individualism, social isolation, and lack of connection to nature and the outdoors – covered in unsafe, flammable cladding.
It is imperative that this opportunity is used wisely, not only to suitably replace the 272 social accommodation flats that were lost, but to design them in an image that encourages a sense of community, a sense of togetherness, a proud home to live in, a community with access to nature, and an asset to our city.
Several months ago, the university held an event in which three architecture student task force planning groups set to work producing designs of what these new buildings could look like. The planning groups came up with some really innovative ideas for the redevelopment of the two housing blocks; including vertical farming and hydroponics, outdoor living rooms, seas of trees, islands of low-rise apartments, community spaces and services, green lanes, play parks, tranquil courtyards, ponds, allotments, running tracks and cycling routes, improved connectivity and more. Incorporating green spaces and green technologies into new buildings and community spaces is not only beneficial for our city’s health in terms of helping to reduce carbon emissions, but also highly beneficial to improving residents’ wellbeing, mental health and physical health. The importance of both these issues can no longer afford to be underestimated.
Moreover, it is essential that former residents, who have faced great upheaval since being forced out of their homes, are not only considered priority cases to be rehoused in these properties, but must also be given the right to engage with the architect in shaping the design, innovation and ideas in the planning for the redevelopment of these buildings. It is only fair that these residents are offered to return to their homes above all other considerations, and that they have a say in what the redevelopment of their future homes will look like. It is only by engaging community members that this project will see success in enabling a community blossom and a space used effectively by residents.
If this project is carried out well, it could set a precedent for future social and private housing initiatives throughout the city. A precedent for high environmental standards, quality design and resident involvement can only be a positive one for Portsmouth’s future.