Keep­ing up ap­pear­ances

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - New Homes -

The city of Bath is famed for its ele­gant de­sign, with the Royal Cres­cent stand­ing at its cen­tre as an em­blem of a city built on ar­chi­tec­tural bril­liance. Now, Robert Adam, one of the UK’s most suc­cess­ful clas­si­cal ar­chi­tects, has come to the city with a dream: to build a sim­ple, beau­ti­ful neigh­bour­hood of mod­ern clas­si­cal houses. Hol­burne Park, a de­vel­op­ment on Warmin­ster Road over­look­ing the Ken­net and Avon canal, and sit­u­ated on a for­mer Min­istry of De­fence site, will com­prise 240 prop­er­ties.

When buy­ers are mak­ing their big pur­chase of a house in one of the UK’s most ar­chi­tec­turally as­tute cities, they want at­ten­tion to de­tail, says Adam, who re­cently won the Driehaus Prize, cel­e­brat­ing the best of clas­si­cal ar­chi­tec­ture, an al­ter­na­tive to the mainly mod­ernist fo­cus of the Pritzker Prize. He has be­come syn­ony­mous with build­ing mod­ern takes of clas­si­cal homes in var­i­ous his­tor­i­cal styles, from Arts and Crafts to Baroque and Pal­la­dian, mak­ing them zero-car­bon.

Most peo­ple, “quite rea­son­ably”, con­sider clas­si­cal build­ings to be quin­tes­sen­tial Bath, says Adam (he hap­pens to share a name with one of the most fa­mous neo­clas­si­cal ar­chi­tects of the 18th cen­tury, who built Syon House and Fitzroy Square). “They prob­a­bly can’t ar­tic­u­late it, but they know it.”

It was this at­ti­tude to build­ing mod­ern houses that drew Fran­cis Firm­stone, di­rec­tor of Hardrock De­vel­op­ments, to com­mis­sion Adam. “He was the ob­vi­ous choice,” Firm­stone says. “He de­signs in a clas­si­cal lan­guage but with mod­ern build­ing ma­te­ri­als and meth­ods.” And what a boon for those buy­ers, get­ting an Adam house for a frac­tion of his usual fee. “It has sud­denly be­come far more ac­ces­si­ble to live in an Adamde­signed house,” agrees Ge­orge Cardale, head of Sav­ills’ res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment depart­ment, which is sell­ing the prop­er­ties. “You don’t have to have mil­lions, you have to have a few hun­dred thou­sand.”

Prop­er­ties at Hol­burne Park range from two-bed­room gate­houses with ele­gant open-plan liv­ing to clas­sic two-storey ter­races, three-bed­room cor­ner houses and four-bed­room town houses with garages. The Beck­ford, a three-bed­room prop­erty in a mod­ern mews style over two storeys with a south-east­erly fac­ing garden, is on the mar­ket for £545,000. Like all of the prop­er­ties at Hol­burne Park, it is built us­ing that fa­mous Bath stone.

Pro­tect­ing Bath’s ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage re­mains a dif­fi­cult sub­ject: in Jan­uary, His­toric Eng­land de­scribed the coun­cil-led £50mil­lion Bath Quays South de­vel­op­ment as “in­com­pat­i­ble” with the city’s Unesco World Her­itage sta­tus. This makes Adam’s at­ten­tion to clas­si­cal de­tail at Hol­burne Park all the more im­por­tant in the city’s huge roll-call of new de­vel­op­ments.

New maisonettes and lat­eral apart­ments have been built be­hind the grand Ge­or­gian fa­cade of Som­er­set Place, one of the city’s clas­sic cres­cents. Twenty apart­ments and nine cres­cent houses of three and four bed­rooms be­gin at £1.45mil­lion, with the scheme due for com­ple­tion this au­tumn. Hope House, a de­vel­op­ment of one- to four-bed­room apart­ments and houses on the site of a for­mer girls’ school in Lans­down, is set in seven acres of pri­vate park­land, with an on-site ten­nis court avail­able to res­i­dents. The prop­er­ties start from £1.65mil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to Knight Frank, 25 per cent of Bath’s hous­ing stock was built be­fore 1900, but the lack of an­nual main­te­nance needed at these new homes is prov­ing pop­u­lar, says Cardale. He re­calls a cou­ple whose pe­riod prop­erty in Sur­rey was cost­ing them £30,000 a year in up­keep. “Here, you’re buy­ing a new prop­erty with a 10-year war­ranty and it still feels like it has some prove­nance.”

Prop­erty prices in Bath, where the av­er­age house price is £432,446, in­creased by 3.5 per cent in 2016, says Knight Frank. For those in the sub-£1mil­lion mar­ket, where the stamp duty bur­den is lower, val­ues grew by 5.2 per cent. Hol­burne Park is not sell­ing at a huge pre­mium, says Firm­stone. “We very much want to make sure that they’re af­ford­able for a range of peo­ple.”

For Adam, it is a project about cre­at­ing a neigh­bour­hood for a new group of peo­ple, rather than just a row of houses. He laments past ex­pe­ri­ences in which “peo­ple can’t un­der­stand that what they are build­ing is a place. They just think it’s a col­lec­tion of house types, and that’s how they sell them. The truth is that buy­ers buy places be­fore they buy houses.”

The buy­ers who, in the case of those in­ter­ested in Hol­burne Park, have been camped out overnight to get first pick of the stock are in­creas­ingly dis­cern­ing.

“They buy into the fact that it’s Bath, and it feels like Bath,” says Adam. “It doesn’t feel like some­body’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what mod­ern Bath should be.”

The ap­peal of clas­si­cal ar­chi­tec­ture lives on – and now it comes with a mod­ern twist, writes Eleanor Doughty

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