Home Truths

26 Jan 2023

Design for housing is not much taught in schools of architecture. Yet homes make places what they are – three quarters of all buildings are made to house people. Human wellbeing is dependent on the planning and design of places where we live being of a quality capable of meeting our wider needs and satisfying our desires in ways that harmonise with the natural world.

Home Truths is no conventional design guide, rather more a manifesto for professional practice in an era of multiple crises – in social, economic and racial disparity, in housing supply and affordability, in climate change, in our emptying high streets and homelessness in our town centres. The book has been described by one peer reviewer as an act of tough love for the professions.

With a background of 50 years in practice as a housing architect, Derbyshire has written a primer, including the history of, and contemporary context for professional practice, setting out the essential ideas and likely future developments that aspiring planners and designers of homes and places need to know about and bear in mind for their work. Successful housing design relies on a broad holistic understanding and the book reflects this broad landscape.

Drawing on five orthodoxies of the 20th century, Derbyshire reflects on the foundations for contemporary practice. Successive chapters explain the decline of architects’ influence, extoll the role of planning, defend streets from modernist attack, draw lessons from loved housing, promote a stake for consumers, proselytise inclusive design, explain the opportunity of factory production, demand further and faster progress towards net zero with a plea that it’s above no-one’s pay grade to demand better from their superiors.

Better outcomes are possible now. We don’t need, and cannot afford to wait for further innovation. Everyone has a role and Home Truths explains how the whole can be greater than the sum of parts.

Home Truths is available to order online from RIBA.