Three architects have made the shortlist in David Wilson Homes’ competition to update the Regency townhouse. So what did they have that the others didn’t?

The townhouse is enjoying a new lease of life, thanks to the demands for higher density residential development enshrined in the planning guidance PPG3. But all too often these new homes take their inspiration from that heyday of the townhouse, the Regency.

Now David Wilson Homes is encouraging housebuilders to look forwards, and has challenged architects to come up with a new model for the townhouse. In its brief for the eScape design competition, the housebuilder put the emphasis on innovation, requiring entrants to create their designs from a menu of advanced building components and to take contemporary concerns, such as privacy, into consideration.

The competition, undertaken in partnership with Wood for Good and managed by Design for Homes, will culminate in the building of the winning design on a David Wilson site in the Thames Gateway. Because one design will be built, manufacturers have also been involved, to ensure that design and buildability go hand in hand, and that technology is fully exploited.

Almost 650 architects registered for the contest and earlier this month, 12 judges met to select a shortlist at Space4’s factory in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, which supplies the structural timber system for the townhouses. The judges included designer Laurence Llewelyn Bowen, architects David Parkes and Teresa Borsuk, and Trevor Beattie, English Partnerships’ strategy director.

The judges shortlisted architects Cole Thompson, PCKO and Rider Sale, awarding each £6000 to work up their initial concept ideas (shown above and opposite), in collaboration with David Wilson and the manufacturers, prior to the final judging session in October.

The brief set a tough challenge. “There was a fantastic interest in a very important design of our time,” said David Birkbeck, chief executive of Design for Homes. “But it was disappointing to see how many entries simply didn’t consider basic issues such as internal light and space standards or what it would be like to arrive at that address.”

Nonetheless, James Wilson, development director with David Wilson Homes, is positive about the competition. “Although we were surprised that many of the entries lacked the level of innovation that we were looking for, there were a number that did stand out by their considered and thoughtful approach,” he said.

The chosen three won strong praise from the judges. According to Bob Meanwell, group design director at David Wilson Homes: “We were looking for townhouse designs that we knew would excite our existing buyers, and would attract a wider range of new purchasers. We feel that these three entries in their different ways all offer something a bit special.”

Charles Trevor, managing director of Wood For Good, is looking forward to seeing how the three designs develop. “All three show a clear understanding of the brief and a genuine desire to create modern houses for the demands of the 21st century,” he said.

The winner will be announced at the Building Future Homes London convention on 12 October.