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As part of our course, we visited a number of recent developments. One of them, situated in a picturesque location near York, was delivered by Barratt Homes in a partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust.

Derwenthorpe sits on the outskirt of York, 2 miles away from its city centre. The name Derwenthorpe comes from Derwent Valley railway which was running through the site in the past. The architectural style of development fits perfectly the surrounding area and reflects the historical style of the residential houses in the area.

The development is a winner of number of awards, including RIBA Yorkshire Award for sustainability, 2017 for Phase 1 and Housing Design Award, 2013. It represents one of the largest low-carbon communities in UK and achieved level 4 in Code for Sustainable Homes.

Below is my BFL12 assessment of Derwenthorpe

Integrating into the neighbourhood

  • Connections The location of the site allows its residents enjoy all qualities of open green spaces while being a stone-throw from town city centre. Derwenthorpe situated between Osbaldwick, Tang Hall and Heworth. The architectural style not only fits surrounding area, yet brings some elements of contemporary design
  • Facilities and services  There is a frequent bus service connecting development with the rest of the city. Derwenthorpe is a part of Sustrans which, by providing bike lanes, walking paths and integrated public transport system, encourages residents to use their cars less often
  • Public transport One of the key elements of the design was to create a pedestrian friendly car free streets within the development. Good quality landscaping and speed limit of 20mph support cycling and walking.
  • Meeting local housing requirements Mix tenure housing development consists of almost 40% of affordable units and consists of privately owned and rented houses
Well-established landscaping of the site helps animate the streets (left) Good variety of natural habitats to support local biodiversity (middle) Unique style of the houses that share a palette of textures, colours and natural materials (right)
Derwenthorpe development perfectly fits surrounding context

Creating a place

  • Character The entire masterplan shares the palette of materials and colours which are native to the area. By contemporary interpretation of their use, the development managed to create a distinctive character of the development. Variation in housing heights helps achieve a hierarchy of built structures and reinforce different character zones. These houses were designed as highly environmentally friendly which can be traced in window sizes, roof orientation and well-integrated in the overall design scheme solar panels
  • Working with the site and context Houses create safe public spaces by increased natural surveillance as they overlook pedestrian streets. Development utilises and reinforces the existing landscape by providing habitats for local biodiversity. 
  • Creating well-defined streets and spaces Distinctive character of the houses and streets that open into junctions represented by a well defined public space help resolve cul-de-sacs and reinforce public realm
  • Easy to find way round Buildings of the development act as landmarks by their distinctive character, while hierarchy of the roads help navigate through the site
Major roads that connect Derwenthorpe with its context. The movement created vehicles to circulate through the site

Street and home

  • Streets for all Reduced vehicle speed is one of the key elements of the design. this achieved through position of soft and hard landscaping (which also acts as landmarks) and house buildings. Soft landscaping also provides places for congregation. On street parking benefits from natural surveillance provided by nearby houses
  • Parking is well integrated into the design and provides parking spaces both in the courtyards and on street
  • Public and private spaces Play area for children is situated away from car movement and is well overlooked by surrounding houses for extra security. Mature and semi-mature trees add hierarchy to the space and frame the vehicular circulation providing a natural screen
  • External storages and amenity spaces Each house benefits from a secure bike storage as the scheme encourages cycling and is part of Sustrans. 
Main road of the development shown in yellow (some are missing yet as the development is still under construction)
Secondary roads shown in green demonstrating a very well-thought out connection around the entire site
Dark blue indicates the existing Osbaldwick Beck which often floods nearby area. Designers of Derwenthorpe used the topography of the site as an opportunity to create SUDs which is now represented as ponds and ditches (light-blue)

 BFL12 Critical Evaluation

Although BFL12 is a useful toolkit in accessing contemporary developments, it can be improved. In particular, the sustainability of the projects. At the moment the toolkit doesn’t reflect the careful eco-friendly approach of developments like Derwenthorpe and Sinclair Meadows. There is no criteria for such aspects as renewable energy, locality of materials and bio-diversity encouragement, although it is one of the most important criteria for sustainable master planning. Moreover, BFL traffic light assessment system is quite subjective and doesn’t accurately reflect advantages and weaknesses of the projects. For example, 10 points based system for each light would be more precise.

Featured image source York Press   

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509


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