These are my objections to single aspect flats, and modern mews houses

Poor light, lack of sunlight, poor ventilation, unsuitable for family living – examples Munro Mews, Academy Central, Three Mills West, Goldhawk Road, Vue2 Bletchley, Woods House, Brentford – details below:-

Poor light -> Elnathan Mews

The further back you go (away from the window) the less light there is, unless you do what the architects did at Elnathan Mews (see plan below) and put a skylight in to illuminate the kitchen.  Still can’t see out though can you?  Apart from the sky. No view.

Elnathan Mews

Far be it from me to malign the happy residents of these expensive shoeboxes after all they now have their very own website and delightful it is too.  http://elnathanmews.com/ They are however a shy bunch of people having only a postal address for contact on the eponymous page.  Shame as I was looking forward to enlightening them as to my views.  If you invite me round to have a look, I’ll accept the invitation and promise to be objective.

Poor light -> Woods House by A2Dominion

What to do? Higher ceilings?  Taller windows?  Unlikely in a block with roof height limited by planning permission and the developer keen to include as many floors as possible to maximise the number of flats for sale.  Dark rooms.  Internal bathrooms and kitchens. Want to see out while you’re washing up?  Tough cookie!  “Put it in the dishwasher” you’ll say. What about filling the kettle for a cup of tea? Washing vegetables, all manner of day to day activities in a kitchen during which time you would normally glance out of the window (passive surveillance adding to security) now banished. Watch the children play?  How?

There is a Facebook group of A2Dominion tenants and it doesn’t make happy reading.

Lack of sunlight -> Academy Central – Assael / Taylor Wimpey

North facing single aspect flats such as those proposed at so called Academy Central in Longbridge Road, Barking will receive next to no direct sunlight whatsoever.  Sunlight is recognised as an essential ingredient of a healthy existence both physically and mentally, look at the suicide rates and alcholism in Scandinavian countries.  Yet here as one example we have Assael happily putting people in little boxes off corridors in a former college without taking the trouble to ensure that one side of the dwelling faces the sun.

Poor ventilation -> in general

A back-to-back or mews house does not have through ventilation by design.  One could have ducts and an electric fan although it still wouldn’t be as healthy as being able to open a window on each side of a building and ducting can harbour germs. Worse than that if it is a West or South facing flat and gets hot then you would be relying on the efficiency of the fan and the duct to change the air and cool the rooms.

Poor ventilation -> security

If the flat leads off a corridor like a hotel or student room then you do at least have the option of leaving your door open for a while to create a through draught but then diminishing the security of your dwelling where in a house you would only have to open a window on either side of the house, at least one of which would overlook a yard or garden this being private space where an open door in a hotel or student room is open to semi-public space, not the same thing at all.

Poor ventilation -> solutions

With blinds to shade the room the occupants are then denied the view, or with a/c cannot enjoy the benefits of a fresh breeze because you have to keep the windows closed.  With a properly designed flat they could have the windows open on opposite sides of the building, creating a through draught and having the sunny view regardless.

Single living

If I choose to live in a hotel or a student room, then I live with the fact that if I want a view other than in one direction, I have to leave my room. I accept the limitations imposed on me by virtue of the residence.  If I go to London for a Saturday night out I probably don’t care much where I sleep with no view if at all and then only in one direction, because I’ll be gone the next day, and if I go to college I’ll be there 38 weeks a year if that, probably away at weekends,  sleeping and perhaps studying in a room. Even then the refectory (canteen), the classrooms (study),  and the library (study) will be external to my room.

Family living in a modern mews house -> 282 Goldhawk Road – Peter Barber architects

But in and around a house, a dwelling, a family residence, these things (kitchen / study / open space / living room) are expected to form part of my living space and I want that living space to reflect those needs, not force me to access them externally or live with inadequate alternatives squeezed over several floors, or not available at all.  That’s one of my major objections, that these tiny inadequate dwellings don’t function on a family living level, they are suitable only for one or two people on a short term basis, and even then without the natural result of procreation because there really  is nowhere to bring up children or for them to play. The mews house is for singles or a couple without children.  It is in my view an inadequate form of housing, quite apart from being illegal.

282 Goldhawk Road

Couples in flats

If we extend this argument and say “what then is the quality of life for the couple in this unsuitable dwelling?” then it is a quality of life severely compromised by virtue of its location.  Mews houses and cramped single aspect dwellings are to be found where land is very expensive and space at a premium such as former mews in London and other large cities.

Vertical flats – 282 Goldhawk Road

However the requirements I have listed above as being essential in order to raise children are in themselves desirable qualities for a couple, such as outside space, good light, good ventilation, no unnecessary use of stairs for otherwise the dwelling is then useful only to a limited age range excluding the very young and very old or disabled.  Is a roof terrace really an adequate replacement for a garden or yard?

Think for a moment of the London Underground.  It has escalators between the tube lines and the surface because in the course of a normal day none of us are expected to ascend or descend these distances unassisted, and carrying goods, shopping or luggage this would become more difficult still yet in a “vertical flat” one is obliged to climb and descend numerous times in the course of a day simply to carry out normal functions.  When the kitchen, dining, living and bathroom are on one level this is a building for life.  The modern mews house most certainly is not.

Feedback

Discuss blog@singleaspect.org.uk by all means write to me.  I’m longing to have an objective discussion about this.  Perhaps  you are an architect and you think the above is tosh.  Let’s meet for a coffee.  Tell me why it’s tosh.  Tell me what you propose to do instead.