Brian Berry compares a Georgian version of the ideal terrace with an advanced modern slum

Brian Berry
Brian Berry

My wonder is the Circus at Bath built in 1758 by John Wood. Inspired by the classical movement the 33 houses make a tight circle, interrupted by three radiating streets.

Its simplicity and elegance is an enduring statement, and a lesson to all housebuilders about proportion, taste and function. It satisfies the demand for higher density living without compromising people’s ability to live in a beautiful environment. It also allows the passer-by to marvel at its simple genius and contributes to the beauty of the city. The enduring desirability of well designed terraced houses is something we need to revisit if we are to satisfy our current demand for more homes. The Circus quite simply shows what can be done to make urban living a very attractive option.

My blunder is the Ferrier estate in Kidbrooke, south-east London, which represents all that is bad about post-war social housing. Located on a brownfield site to the east of affluent Blackheath, the estate was built between 1967 and 1970 using a system of concrete panels.

It is grey, soulless, devoid of humanity, and has become one of the most deprived and rundown areas in London. The tragedy is the effect it has had on a generation of people who have had to live in this bleak and brutal landscape. Thankfully, the estate is to be demolished but at what cost to the communities who are now being dispersed across London? Homes should always be about, and for, people. We ignore this fact at our peril.

Ideal homes John Wood’s final masterpiece was built on Barton Fields outside the old city walls of Bath. It was begun in 1754 and completed in 1768. Unfortunately the architect died shortly after the first stone was laid. It was inspired by the Roman Colosseum and was intended to be part of plans to create a paladian architectural landscape in the city.

Hideous holes The Ferrier estate comprises six and 12-storey blocks of flats covering 76 acres in south-east London. It was built by the London County Council and completed in 1972.