News The Ryde: An iconic project

The Ryde: An iconic project


February 23, 2023

The Ryde, a housing development in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, was designed by architects Phippen, Randall, and Parkes (PRP) and was their first project. Completed in 1969, the development features a diverse range of accommodation, including 2, 3, and 4-bed single-storey houses. The larger units extend telescope-like via a series of courtyards, creating a sense of fluidity between the interior and exterior spaces. The architects achieved this diversity within a rigid 7m cross-wall formation, resulting in a remarkable accomplishment of planning.

The development was commissioned by the Cockaigne Housing Group, a cooperative venture founded by Michael Baily in 1962. The group secured 100% mortgages for its members, allowing them to purchase 12 plots in Hatfield that were previously shunned because they backed onto a railway line. The Ryde was designed to respond to the priorities of prospective purchasers from a published questionnaire by Barbara Allen, a sociologist at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (MHLG).

PRP incorporated several new design concepts into The Ryde, including the Parker-Morris space standards, which were only a talking point at the time but were later introduced for local authority housing in 1967. The development also incorporated pioneering work on sunlight and daylight standards, economic constructional concepts, and high-density single-storey layouts, which were the results of user studies that formed the basis of the influential Space in the Home design bulletin.

In addition to the 28 units, The Ryde includes communal spaces such as a community room and an empty house available for friends to stay in. Private garden spaces and shared childcare arrangements were also catered for, making The Ryde an innovative development for its time.

The materials used in The Ryde are simple and straightforward but were put together with understated flair, creating a quietly radical and modernist appearance. In period photographs, the development looks groundbreaking, but on a recent visit, the houses appeared even more seductive, half-hidden by lush planting that had grown up around them.

The Ryde's success opened the way for more similarly funded schemes, such as Shrublands and Forestfield in Crawley, which were designed by PRP for their other 'dream client,' John Pennell. The Ryde also demonstrated that people on modest incomes could get high-quality affordable homes through co-operative endeavor, and that the New Towns could play a role in making sites available for such schemes.

The Ryde is a significant housing development that showcases the talent and innovation of PRP's architects. The development achieved a remarkable diversity of accommodation within a rigid 7m cross-wall formation and incorporated several new design concepts that later became influential in the field. The Ryde's success as a cooperative venture demonstrated that quality housing could be made affordable to those on medium incomes and opened the way for more similar schemes in the future.