Daniel Swift Gibbs loves the community, natural beauty and space he finds in Norfolk, but it's housing that is a dominant issue for architects

I moved back to Norfolk after living in London. I was drawn by the vast landscape: the rolling grasslands, bright fields of rapeseed, and salty marshes; an eclectic coastline boasting rugged cliffs, wild dunes, and tranquil seas; and The Broads – all under our glorious wide skies.

This surrounds the island city of Norwich, with a thriving cultural and arts community, a fascinating architectural vernacular and heritage, and leading scientific and creative industries. It’s a great place to practise architecture.

While the space, beauty, and community is inspirational – there are some big challenges. The region is really struggling in the housing crisis. We have fallen well behind targets for completing new homes, in part stifled by house builders and land developers sitting on some 20,000 granted but unbuilt planning applications. Many of the schemes that have made it through to construction are not meeting quotas for affordable tenures. There is also a – quite understandable – unwillingness by some locals and councillors to disturb the natural beauty of the area – but this means even the most sympathetic, considerate and beautifully appropriate proposals can suffer a protracted planning process before approval. 

But fortunately, the tide may be beginning to turn. Local housing associations are working with architects on a number of really progressive, truly people-focused schemes, to provide good quality homes for the region’s most vulnerable. We’re also looking across the North Sea to our European cousins in the Low Countries for inspiration. Using Passivhaus design principles has become a real point of focus for a number of practices. Custom self-build and co-housing schemes of the type that have proved so successful on the continent are now on the horizon here. This shift could bring about a real change in the way the region approaches housing; putting us at the forefront of the movement in this country, and giving the landscape the architecture it deserves. 

Daniel Swift Gibbs is a Part II architectural assistant at Hudson Architects, Norwich


 
RIBA East Awards 2017 – The full list
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Carrowbreck Meadow, Greater Norwich

Hamson Barron Smith

Carrowbreck Meadow, Greater Norwich
Carrowbreck Meadow, Greater Norwich Credit: Jefferson Smith

St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire

Richard Griffiths Architects

 

St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire
St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire Credit: Richard Griffiths

Redshank, St Osyth

Lisa Shell Architects

Redshank, St Osyth
Redshank, St Osyth Credit: Hélène Binet

The Echoes, Grays

Bell Phillips Architects

The Echoes, Grays
The Echoes, Grays Credit: Kilian O’Sullivan

Vajrasana Buddhist Retreat Centre, Walsham le Willows

Walters & Cohen Architects

Vajrasana Buddhist Retreat Centre, Walsham le Willows
Vajrasana Buddhist Retreat Centre, Walsham le Willows Credit: Will Scott

University of Cambridge Primary School

Marks Barfield Architects

University of Cambridge Primary School
University of Cambridge Primary School Credit: Morley von Sternberg

The Enterprise Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich

Architype

The Enterprise Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich
The Enterprise Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich Credit: Dennis Gilbert

Peacock House, Aldeburgh

BHSF Architekten

Peacock House, Aldeburgh
Peacock House, Aldeburgh Credit: Benedikt Redmann

Private house, Harpenden

Coffey Architects

Private house, Harpenden
Private house, Harpenden Credit: Timothy Soar

Marsh Hill, Aldeburgh

Mole Architects

Marsh Hill, Aldeburgh
Marsh Hill, Aldeburgh Credit: David Butler

Heong Gallery, Downing College, Cambridge

Caruso St John Architects

Heong Gallery, Downing College, Cambridge
Heong Gallery, Downing College, Cambridge Credit: Ioana Marinescu

Lode House, Lode

Henry Goss Architects

Lode House, Lode
Lode House, Lode Credit: Henry Goss

Holkham Hall Stables and Pottery Building, Wells-Next-the-Sea

Hopkins Architects

Holkham Hall Stables and Pottery Building, Wells-Next-the-Sea
Holkham Hall Stables and Pottery Building, Wells-Next-the-Sea Credit: Martine Hamilton Knight

Combined Colleges Boathouse Cambridge

R H Partnership Architects (RHP)

Combined Colleges Boathouse Cambridge
Combined Colleges Boathouse Cambridge Credit: Andrew Hatfield

Cowan Court, Cambridge

6a architects

Cowan Court, Cambridge
Cowan Court, Cambridge Credit: Johan Dehlin

The Welding Institute, Cambridge 

Eric Parry Architects

The Welding Institute, Cambridge
The Welding Institute, Cambridge Credit: Dirk Lindner

Backwater, Wroxham

Platform 5 Architects

Backwater, Wroxham
Backwater, Wroxham Credit: Alan Williams

See our special RIBA Awards 2017 section for all this year’s winners.


 

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