ack in the Nineties, the architecture of many new homes was so dreary that it was genuinely difficult to distinguish one block of McFlats from another.
But, in response to demand from increasingly design-savvy buyers inspired by what they’ve seen on TV shows such as Grand Designs – and encouraged by political pressure to build homes that are beautiful as well as functional – that is changing.
Housebuilders are starting to let go of the cookie-cutter approach and instead are hiring some of the world’s leading starchitects to create unique properties. They understand that a landmark home can be worth more than the sum of its parts to their customers, while buyers know that when the time comes to move on there is value in having a truly unique property to sell.
The Evening Standard New Homes Awards honour the very best in contemporary architecture in London and beyond, and our judges have some tough choices ahead.
SOM is one of the world’s leading architecture practices, with projects everywhere from New York, where it rebuilt the World Trade Centre site after 9/11, to Singapore, where it is in the process of building the country’s tallest skyscraper.
Its work can also be seen somewhat closer to home in Bracknell, Berkshire, where it has designed a striking £49.5 million development of rental apartments at Royal Winchester House.
Completed in 2020, the block is hard to miss in Bracknell’s slightly dreary post-war town centre, with its teak exterior and stepped roofline which was designed especially so that its residents can enjoy a cascade of roof gardens.
It is, of course, built to highly energy-efficient standards, keeping bills low, and inside the 338 one- and two-bedroom apartments are open plan and make the most of natural light with full-height windows.
Rents start at £1,100 per month (thecomergroup.com).
There are few bigger names in modern architecture than Frank Gehry. The American architect is known for his exciting, experimental approach to design on everything from the Fondation Louis Vuitton museum in Paris to the Space Age Guggenheim Museum in Spain.
In 2013 it was announced that Gehry would turn his attention to London for the first time, where work to regenerate Battersea Power Station and the land around it was already under way.
His main contribution to the project is Prospect Place, a pair of undulating white apartment blocks containing just over 300 homes which were completed in spring.
The irregular design of the buildings is said to be inspired by the billowing sails of a ship, while Gehry chose to make the blocks white in homage to John Nash, the architect of Regency London, and his famous white terrace houses.
The huge, projecting windows of Prospect Place offer fabulous views of the capital, and every single apartment is unique, with features including curved staircases and mezzanine levels.
And since the two buildings face each other and there are shops on the ground floor, together they create a pedestrian boulevard leading towards the power station itself, which is due to open to the public within the next few weeks.
Prices for a home at Prospect Place start from £1,325,000 for a two-bedroom apartment (batterseapowerstation.co.uk).
Clerkenwell-based architects Patel Taylor has become one of London’s most in-demand mid-sized practices – designing everything from schools to skyscrapers as well as creating the amazing garden above Canary Wharf station. At London Dock in Wapping, a 15-acre swathe of semi-derelict Georgian shipping wharves where cargoes of spices, coffee, cocoa, wine, wool and ivory were once imported into the capital, is being transformed.
The site will eventually contain 1,800 new homes within a short walk of the Tower of London and St Katharine Docks, plus shops, restaurants, cafés and workspaces.
To keep things interesting, a roster of architects are designing different buildings and Patel Taylor’s contribution is Cashmere Wharf, a crystalline 28-storey tower containing 144 apartments.
The steel-and-glass building features a series of projecting bay windows and is studded with south-facing terraces with concrete bases. Outside is a private residents’ water garden – an oasis in the heart of central London that is also a nod to the area’s nautical history.
Prices at London Dock start from £760,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, and from £1.22 million for a two-bedroom apartment (berkeleygroup.co.uk).