by Nick Blake
When gazing upon the imaginative architecture at the Observatory housing estate in Wincheap’s Hollow Lane, you get the impression that it certainly makes a change.
But then again, sometimes architects – let off the lead – leave strange things behind. Let me explain.
Each of the 52 three- and four-bedroom homes has a little glazed turret above the bedrooms, hence the Observatory name.
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Unless, however, you have a ladder nobody can observe, merely be woken up by sun streaming into bedrooms.
Another extra: purchasers will need dressing gowns. There’s no privacy from your neighbours here with all those floor to ceiling windows in conspicuous positions.
Elsewhere, the layout keeps a welcome bit of the Hollow Lane hedgerow, but the roundabout at the entrance destroys the rural feel – and would appear superfluous with such a low volumes of traffic.
The road design on the site does not use modern guidelines that introduce a narrowing of the carriageway to slow down vehicles.
Access splays produce nasty little geometric bits of grass verge which again aid speeding cars.
The safest junctions are 90 degree corners such as you get in Victorian housing areas.
The developer has given some houses a Radburn type ambiguous pedestrian on one side, vehicle on the other layout.
This will make finding front doors a puzzle like it is on part of the Pine Tree Estate off Forty Acres Road, Canterbury.
This was discredited 40 years ago, but, it is said, was requested by the city council and has led the Observatory to have vast, expensive lengths of blank brick walls around car accesses which have no character.
The houses, although having some large windows, are rather harsh and boxy with a poor relationship to each other thereby failing to generate an attractive townscape.
The final issue is that no affordable housing exists in the Observatory and yet our council asks there to be 30% of it in new developments.
Could this be because the developer thought it would not suit his upmarket offer?
Nick Blake is an architectural consultant who runs his own company. He lives in the St Stephen’s area of Canterbury