Skip to content
Science, Maths & Technology

Design for urban living: how we live and how we might live

Updated Thursday 24th March 2016

In the UK there is a rush to build more homes. Is there a different way of making the houses we want to live in, that suits the ways we live in cities now?

People inside a London townhouse Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license People in a modern townhouse Housing matters to everyone but to different people in different ways. There is no one housing solution that will universally fit everyone, in every location, equally, as if we inhabit some utopian idyll, where generic housing can just be rolled out across a city plan.

But in the rush to build more homes in the UK isn’t this just what is happening?  Is there an alternative, another way of making the houses we want to live in, to suit the ways we live in cities now?

The houses that volume builders construct are openly criticised by home owners for many reasons, including, building housing with garages that are too small for cars and making them from materials that do not age well, or lack the same aesthetic appeal as older properties (Clancy 2001).

The control that a few volume house builders have over the supply of new housing is often blamed, not only for regulating the rate at which homes are supplied but also the design quality of the housing that is built.

The house-building market wasn’t always structured like this. In the mid-twentieth century there was greater competition and more independent house builders. What has noticeably been lost in the decline of local house building is diversity in the designs of the houses that are built.

Refreshingly, there is an alternative view. It is from seeing potential in liberating the unused ‘gap’ spaces in cities and questioning the ways we eat/live/work and actually inhabit homes that Roger Zogolovich of Solidspace provocatively suggests ‘Shouldn’t we all be developers?’  In this he promotes the design of housing that values the experience of inhabiting a home that has been designed well, for the place where it is, to fit within the existing urban fabric.

The dwellings that Solidspace design are a twenty-first-century re-working of the London townhouse typology that has proven to be flexible to changes in city life over time. Solidspace’s typology is a split-level design that uses the volume within a dwelling to create a greater sense of space, light and character. Solidspace do pose a design challenge to policy makers and the house-building infrastructure, asking Don’t we all deserve to live in well-designed housing’?


For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

What does scientific evidence tell us about making our homes energy efficient? Creative commons image Icon dunktanktechnician under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license article icon

Money & Business 

What does scientific evidence tell us about making our homes energy efficient?

There's lots of advice about how to save money by making your house more efficient. But how much of it is just - ho ho - hot air? Meet a man who built a house in a lab to find out.

At Home in Britain Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The OU and RIBA article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

At Home in Britain

Details of a new exhibition called At Home in Britain: Designing the House of Tomorrow, and links to articles, podcasts and courses about homes.

House prices falling? Don’t bet the bank on it Creative commons image Icon Gary Edwards under Creative-Commons license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

House prices falling? Don’t bet the bank on it

Even if prices are falling, it looks like generation rent will likely be around for some time to come.

Urbanism in Blade Runner Creative commons image Icon Alan under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Urbanism in Blade Runner

As well as being a science fiction classic, you could read Blade Runner as a movie about town planning. No, really. Let Ryan Schleeter explain.

Manufacturing Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission free course icon Level 1 icon

Science, Maths & Technology 


How are designs turned into products? What resources, materials and methods are used and what set of activities goes under the heading of 'manufacturing'? This free course will introduce manufacturing as a system and will describe some of the many different ways of making products. We will illustrate how the required properties of the materials in a product influence the choice of manufacturing process used.

Free course
20 hrs
The Z Files: Tony Waithe Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Firebrandphotography | video icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

The Z Files: Tony Waithe

British inventor Tony Waithe shares his passion for design and innovation with the poet Benjamin Zephaniah

5 mins
Project Fear: Order your free graphic novel Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Simon Bell, Charles Cutting & The Open University activity icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Project Fear: Order your free graphic novel

An uncertain world. Can systems thinking free us from fear? Simon Bell & Charles Cutting's graphic novel asks the question.

Are robots about to take jobs from the poor? Creative commons image Icon Steve Jurvetson under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Are robots about to take jobs from the poor?

A new generation of robots could be expanding their career options - and that could be catastrophic news for the poorest in the world, says Aisling Irwin.


Science, Maths & Technology 

Design Essentials: small objects of desire

When the Apple designers first came to Steve Jobs with the iPod he picked it up, fiddled with it and then dropped it into a fish tank. "Those are air bubbles," he snapped. "That means there's space in there. Make it smaller." A successful designer needs a critical awareness of the design all around us and the factors that produce it. They also need to be able to look at an item and analyse - what it is, what does it do, why is like that, how is it made?

30 mins