David Birkbeck finds populist excitement at an Essex town, but only prophylactic disappointment in an East End designer home
Essex loves an estate of wide-fronted houses with twin-garages. Now architect Proctor and Matthews has created a vernacular for this species of executive box. Out of the houses at Abode, its development in Harlow, I rate the one on the left highest. You might not like gabion walls or brises-soleil, but they overcome the mews court's problem of fenestration facing onto public areas. Then there's an upper floor terrace for private sunbathing and a high brick wall screening the garden. Many of the houses have half as much space again as you find in units built locally for the same market.

You have to visit Abode to see the long list of small steps it takes that are giant strides in housebuilding, from the bonded-gravel shared surfaces to the landscaped trees that take precedence over cars. Congratulations to masterplanner Roger Evans, local authority Harlow, the landowning Moen family, and Countryside Properties.

David Adjaye's trick is to find ways of illuminating darkened cells. They can be as evocative as winter sunshine, but the idea of a house that is just a blind box with a windowless plastic frontage and light diffused from rooflights is, to urban planning, condom architecture. However exciting the initial thrill, it will dull the pleasure for those inside.