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The Fall and Rise of Regional Planning

Part 2 Dissertation 2011
Phil Cooper
RIBA Studio Oxford UK
Suburbia is a popular place: 85% of Britons live in suburban houses, and nearly all of us have done or will do so at some point in our lives. Yet suburbia is largely ignored by architects, with its design being dictated by housebuilders, who are led by research which tells them what the public wants from their homes. Today’s suburbia sprawls across the English countryside; the houses near identical (save for a Georgian portico here, and a PVC conservatory there), designed to respond to a notion of what housebuilders think the public wants to buy.

The house buyer, however, is faced with Hobson’s choice; they can buy the suburban houses on offer, or they can walk away. The only real choice is between a mock Georgian house from one housebuilder, and a Tudorbethan design from another, laid out in the same way from Letchworth Garden City to Port Sunlight.

Inevitably, the decision to buy is made on other grounds such as schools; other local facilities; and, of course, price. We know the British public is aware of good design, and enjoys it – witness the success of TV design shows such as Grand Designs – but they are almost completely excluded from enjoying design due to the available housing stock.

Why then is the design of these houses so restricted and what are the implications for their residents? The dissertation uses the British TV show The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin to illustrate both representations of suburbia in culture, and suggested shortfalls in the British suburban existence. By applying philosophical terms such as authenticity and bad faith, the dissertation assesses the state of British suburban architecture, and draws conclusions about the effect of this on Reggie Perrin, us as individuals and on our society as a whole.

Phil Cooper

Tutor(s)
Steven Bowkett
2011
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