My commute with Great West trains takes me to London Paddington via Thatcham. From the train window, Thatcham’s newest housing development, Kennet Heath, looks as you might expect: hundreds of ‘units’ produced by volume housebuilders. Not much to say, except that they could be anywhere, and it does make you wonder why we can’t do better. I used to develop in London, and was used to working with good architects. It seemed worth a try to see what I liked to think was a better team could produce in the way of an ordinary house. To put up with all the hassle that would probably be involved, I needed to have some enthusiasm for the very idea of an ordinary house. This wasn’t a problem for me. Houses seemed so fundamental to England and what people wanted. There’s plenty of research to show the enduring British love affair with their home as a house: your own front door, a bit of garden, some independence from neighbours and the anthill of city life, and a car or two parked outside.

  • Introduction