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Commodification of Architecture: The Guaranteed House

Part 2 Dissertation 2006
Rob Hyde
Manchester School of Architecture Manchester UK
The dissertation forms part of a larger body of research undertaken to support studio work and is a scoping document for further research.

The catalyst was an investigation into the commodification of architecture through exploration the “Guaranteed House”, as well as a continuation of research on re-positioning New-Towns by traditionalising non-traditional space through branding and cultural importation.

The aim was to develop an assessment of value within architecture and use it to test hypotheses formed in studio, including:
>The Victorian terrace is a “Guaranteed House” typology.
>Heritage inserted into a New-Town is commodified.
>HMRI legislation applied to the Victorian terraces in Liverpool is flawed.

The dissertation forms a taxonomy to assess value. The Victorian terraced house in Liverpool is used as the vehicle and relocation to Skelmersdale the variable.

Socio-culturally, legislation and policy are assessed through influence on value, involving discussion of perception, value related to time and commodification of heritage influenced by nostalgia and pop culture.

Physically, materials are shown to have value in terms of character, embodied energy and adaptability, easily integrated into new-builds retaining or adding value. Economic value is demonstrated in Liverpool, artificially devalued by legislation (primarily the Housing Market Renewal Initiative). In Skelmersdale, value is shown within a market where heritage stock is commodity and new stock desirable.

The conclusion is that the house is “Guaranteed” though much of its value is latent, its potential value kept hidden by legislation and cultural lag.

The house is also shown to be “Guaranteed” in Skelmersdale, demonstrating that legislation that devalues in Liverpool, adds value elsewhere. This contradiction, compounded with future potential value raises fundamental questions over Government demolition policy. Furthermore the house was shown to be part of Skelmersdale’s cultural heritage, questioning traditional architectural ideas of place and context.

Posing many questions, the work concluded that the built environment is a dynamic organism, changing physically and culturally over time with changes in perception affecting value. Legislation and policy are shown to be cultural documents influencing this perception; therefore architects should politicise and be involved more directly in policy to exert further influence on the built environment.


Rob Hyde


Taking in the current policy landscape related to housing, with Government initiatives (HMRI)directly setting out to manipulate 'the market' and create new models for ideal housing (the ODPM £60K house being the most high profile), this dissertation sets out to define the guaranteed sucessful house. What is demonstrated is that architects need to engage at a fundamental level in the policy chain to drive up quality. It is also demonstrated that value is related to architectural language although this can be manipulated through cultural exposure to desirable archetypes. Taste, policy, sustainability and economics can critically intersect to guarantee success.

2006
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