Terry Farrell has launched two London housing schemes: one a 16-storey block of flats, the other a handful of £4m homes. He thinks one could be the answer to the South-east's housing shortage. So which would you put your money on? (PS: That is a trick question …)
Terry Farrell houses are a little bit like buses: no sign of any for a while and then all of a sudden 173 turn up at once. Last week, on the same night, launch parties were held for two very different London residential schemes, both designed by Farrell's hard-working practice.

In Swiss Cottage, north London, the architect has come up with a thoroughly urbane 16-storey, 170-apartment building as part of a £75m mixed-use scheme for Barratt Homes, Dawnay Day and Camden council. Across town in Petersham, in the suburbs of west London, Farrell has designed three detached houses for Berkeley Homes.

As well as their differences in size, the two schemes also have contrasting aesthetics. The Swiss Cottage scheme, called Visage, is angular and looks ready to cut its way into the busy Finchley Road that it fronts. Petersham's three houses are long, linear and laid back, their cool looks reminiscent of the American Case Study houses, known to most of us only through Julius Shulman's iconic photographs.

But there is a link between the two projects, says Farrell, as the Visage building is topped by an apartment that is in effect a linear courtyard house.

The architect believes that both are equally valid as urban housing solutions. The Petersham detached houses may not appear to be in tune with modern-day government thinking on planning, or solve modern housing shortages with their £4m price tag, but the architects has given that matter some thought. It has come up with a more modest 900 ft2, three-bedroom version of the house and looked at how it could be slotted into the housing growth areas. "The courtyard house has great urban potential," says Farrell.

To prove it, the architect has modelled the houses on to a map of the Thames Gateway, and fitted all the 200,000 houses the government is planning to build there under its sustainable communities plan into and around just five towns, leaving vast expanses of open land in between.

"The deputy prime minister thinks that we have got to build on all brown land, but in fact you can fit the housing required into quite small areas – and it doesn't have to be high rise," says Farrell.