14th December 2011
There is no getting around it; Britain is in the grip of a Dickensian styled housing crisis. I do have the upmost respect for Channel 4, who is usually more commonly known for catering to those who can afford property, for highlighting this problem in a season of programmes.
One of these said programmes was fronted by Kevin McCloud. Normally known for his down to earth, cool style of presenting grand designs, McCloud stakes his own personal money and professional reputation on designing affordable housing bringing style and green credentials to new builds; turning social and cheap housing on its head. The project started 5 years ago before the recession and the drop in the housing market and building industry. We watch as the normally consummate and confident McCloud battle nimby-ism, economic Climate, councils and architectural companies to bring his dream alive and proved that you can deliver a greener cheaper better designed way of living for social and starter housing. The programme was humbling, inspirational and moving to watch; then it dawned on me could Kevin McCloud be the 21st Octavia Hill?
Octavia Hill (1838-1912) was a Victorian woman born ahead of her time. She was as well as dealing with social housing she also seen as a founder of social work and helped establish the National Trust. But is her ideas and work looking at social housing and living conditions of working people and her belief that everyone should have access to open space that made me think that Kevin McCloud was the 21st century’s very own Octavia Hill.
With the help of John Ruskin Octavia Hill renovated and managed homes for the working class poor in Marylebone London. Hill believed that “you cannot deal with the people and their houses separately.”[*] Ms Hill made sure she had a close personal contact with the tenants of Ruskin’s properties. She was against the formal processes of governmental housing as she felt that it was socialist and was subsidized housing which did not encourage the tenants to better themselves.
Essentially this was I think the idea and principles that Kevin McCloud had as he started his journey to create well designed affordable housing with good green credentials. He wanted to prove that low cost didn’t need t be cheap and poor quality of materials or finish and that everyone should have access to good homes.
The world needs people like Kevin McCloud and ad Octavia Hill, people who want to better the world for others _ they are truly inspiring people.
[*] Wohl, A. S., “Octavia Hill and the Homes of the London Poor”, The Journal of British Studies, University of Chicago Press, Vol. 10, No. 2 (May, 1971), pp. 105–31