Small, simple, elegant and contemporary brick apartment blocks, that suit their surroundings and have easy access to green space and amenities, are being held up as the best examples of residential design and construction in the New London Awards 2020.

After post-war tower blocks, Sixties concrete brutalist estates and early 21st-century glass skyscrapers, architects and developers have reverted to the humble brick.

Homes & Property can exclusively reveal that the shortlist for the housing category in these upcoming prestigious annual awards comprises brick apartment blocks — both low and high rise — with balconies and design interest such as bronze railings and window frames.

Finalists will be judged by a panel of expert architects, with the winners announced by the New London Architecture forum in November. This is, however, the last round of the selection process before the Government sets out its new National Design Code, prescribing the look for future new homes.

Will new design code stifle creative architecture?

There are growing fears in the housebuilding sector that such a code, which has not been given thorough industry consultation, will encourage the delivery of identikit homes with little room for creative building in the capital. Back to the Fifties and little boxes, God forbid.

The new National Design Code, soon to be revealed by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, is based on last year’s National Design Guide and is yet another piece of policy in a busy year.

The guide called for more green space in housing developments and a mix of uses and facilities on site, but was very general. The code will specify detail such as the number of trees in a street and the size of windows, in an attempt to eradicate poor-quality housing.

Peter Murray, chairman of New London Architecture, says: “There will have to be a requirement to respond to local character, so we will see very different things happening across London boroughs. Bromley will be traditional and low rise, Barking & Dagenham will be pragmatic and affordable and Hackney will be cool and edgy.”

This could stifle adventurous architecture, argues Riëtte Oosthuizen, head of urban planning at housing design specialists HTA Design. “I’m worried that it sends the wrong message, this is how British homes should look and that we will end up trying to rebuild the Georgian dream,” she says. “There must be room for creativity and interpretation. Not all our building has been good but we must not repeat mistakes.”

The New London Awards shortlist

In all, 13 residential developments are in the running to be named Best Housing Scheme 2020 in November’s New London Awards — and each one is unique with a strong design concept.

They include 95 Peckham Road, a 33-apartment brick building designed by Peter Barber, the acclaimed affordable homes architect of the moment.

The block is stepped to create 33 south-facing balconies. The scheme is sold out but the latest two-bedroom apartment on the first floor to come up for sale through KFH was priced at £610,000.

Another contender, 101 on Cleveland comprises three blocks of three to 10 floors and replaced a run-down building on a tight triangular plot in trendy Fitzrovia. There’s a landscaped garden on the first level which brings residents from the 88 homes together, a business lounge and a residents gym, all vital in a post-pandemic world.

Designed by Assael Architecture, the bronze detailing of railings and window ledges is a nod to the weathered buildings and colours around the block. In the luxury price bracket, the apartments left for sale start from £1.2 million through JLL (101oncleveland.com).

Built to rent in Hackney Wick

Queen’s Yard, designed by Jestico+Whiles and Stockwool is a new rental neighbourhood in Hackney Wick on the edge of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and overlooking the canal.

There will be a new theatre and community centre and the white warehouse-style blocks with Crittall windows play to the area’s industrial past.

The Officers’ House, also among the finalists, is the refurbishment of a dilapidated Grade II-listed barracks at Royal Arsenal Riverside in Woolwich. It provides 34 new homes, which have been snapped up, and a public square. The Flemish brickwork has been restored, as have the deep windows. New balconies overlook the square.

Characterful new homes across London

The London skyline might be dominated by tall buildings such as One Park Drive in Canary Wharf and recognisable shapes such as Battersea Power Station, but across the capital, and closer to the ground, are plenty of fine examples of contemporary apartment blocks on small sites, woven into existing neighbourhoods.

Boutique projects are a good use of dead space in a city that needs more homes and they can complement an area, while also standing out as the unique and creative housing that Londoners deserve. A total of 14 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are on sale at 237 Brixton Hill by developer Tailored Living Solutions, set above co-working space. Each of these homes has a balcony and there’s a secret garden tucked away out the back.

The building completes this autumn and prices start from £450,000 with Help to Buy available. Call 020 8315 6996.

In Hampstead, Savills is selling 31 homes at Oakley Gardens, a mix of apartments and townhouses with one to four bedrooms and landscaped gardens. Call 020 7016 3892 or visit savills.com for more information.

The Claves in Mill Hill, also for sale through Savills, comprises one- and two-bedroom apartments and three- to four-bedroom townhouses, all set in new parkland and with cycle storage and a games room. Prices start from £415,000, call 020 3320 8289. Clarence Mews is a boutique scheme of five apartments close to Clapton Square and designed to fit in with the nearby listed buildings. Starting prices are set from £525,000, contact Dexters estate agents on 020 7749 3810.

Dexters is also selling homes in Richardson Mews in Highgate from £555,000. It’s a private gated collection of 25 homes in a red-brick building behind a restored period façade. Call 020 8987 3030.

‘Good-sized rooms sold it. I didn’t want to buy a little box’

After spending the lockdown in a shared house with friends, sales executive James Cruse used Help to Buy to purchase his first home, a two-bedroom flat in a modern brick scheme in Greenwich High Road.

It was the good-sized rooms and floor-to-ceiling windows in the boutique block that sold it to him. “Almost everything else I had seen felt like a small box and was uninspiring — including some big-name schemes in Greenwich,” says James.

By developer Tailored Living Solutions, prices at the scheme ranged from £435,000 to £700,000.

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