I was interested to read Kent on Sunday’s coverage (“Wayne’s world is about ‘building happiness'”) of designer Wayne Hemingway’s views on house design at KOS Media’s Construction Expo 2008 at the Chatham Historic Dockyard. In his usual brusque manner, he fired a salvo of vitriol at “absolutely foul place-making” in the Thames Gateway, whilst praising design in locations such as King’s Hill and the Bridge development in Dartford – unsurprisingly since the latter was designed by his wife Gerardine.
And so it was that I set out to write a posting which lambasted Mr Hemingway’s views as infeasible and impractical – his comment on his own house, built to his own design on three and a half acres on the South Coast at Chichester, and paid for from the windfall he made from the sale of fashion house Red or Dead. “We love high ceilings” he said in an interview with The Independent, designing his own to be some twenty feet high. How can developers parallel that kind of space in a falling market with mass housing in a Government growth area?
Yet the more I checked out Mr Hemingway’s stance, the more I feel it’s worth looking at. His views on sustainability linked to people’s contentment with their surroundings – “if people are happy they inherently become sustainable”; his opinion of mass development of buy to let boxes – the need to revaluate why we can’t “build houses for people to live in, not to invest in”.
So maybe I’ll take a closer look at Wayne Hemingway’s work before rushing to judgement over what I thought was another celebrity designer jumping on the latest bandwagon. Perhaps he has a point.