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ZAC MONRO ON WHY 60S HOMES ARE SUPERIOR TO VICTORIAN HOUSES

Presenter of Channel 4’s Inside Out Homes, Brixton-based architect Zac Monro, tells us why 60s builds are the future

Originally appearing on Channel 4’s Grand Designs as the architect behind an innovative build, Zac Monro is now presenting the channel’s brand new Inside Out Homes show.

Monro started running his business out of his home in Brixton in 2000 and now runs an extremely successful design practice as well as the Brixton Pound, a clever concept that encourages regeneration and business growth within the local area, aiming to ensure the survival of independent business owners.

With an indifference to the grand Victorian structures the British have an unwavering attachment to, Monro feels that homes built in the 60s are a more sensible alternative. Their structures require less upkeep and handle energy saving modernisation better than their showy Victorian ancestors, as well as being considerably less expensive to purchase.

While most people look at properties built in the 60s with an uninspired, dismissive attitude, Monro sees their potential: ‘Salaries have not risen in line with the cost of homes. Houses are unaffordable for many now, yet somehow we are still hung up on this idea that Victorian homes are better.

‘They require an awful lot of work to keep them going and, at this point, they are at the end of their lifespan. They are also not energy efficient – from an ecological point of view, they are obscene.

‘There is a stigma attached to 60s homes, which actually makes them cheaper – they don’t quite tie in with this social bias towards Victorian tradition that we have. When people buy a house they suddenly retreat into a Victorian man with a moustache and buy a crumbling building. If you can look at these ugly 60s houses and get past how they look, there are bones there for something beautiful.’

There is a stigma attached to 60s homes, they don’t quite tie in with this social bias towards Victorian tradition that we have

The local architect has a closer affinity with the architecture of the 60s rather than that of the early 1900s, something he attributes to their association with the beginnings of the ‘inside out’ movement.

He explains: ‘Post-war, early modernist homes really started to try and incorporate the outside because people began to realise how significant it was to human existence. Technology has moved on so much now that you can have areas of a home where you are not aware of walls at all and feel at one with nature.’

With the urban population rapidly growing, Monro says that it is now more important than ever before to create naturalistic tranquil zones that allow people to switch off. ‘We are humans, we evolved in nature. Even if you grew up in a city, you still yearn for nature, even more so,’ he explains. ‘The daily grind is all about man made things, roads, noise, hassle and stress, which makes it critical to have moments of release away from those things. Nature is vital for our wellbeing, it grounds us.’

It’s not always possible to create garden spaces for homes that exist in the city, but Monro gives the example of filling your home or stacking a staircase shelving unit full of plants as an alternative. When it comes to the housing crisis, Monro thinks people will start getting more creative, turning to self build and co-building options.

Having transformed his own home from a standard 60s build to a fully functioning, beautiful modern home, Monro ends on an interesting note. ‘There are millions of Victorian buildings out there, they are not that beautiful,’ he asserts. ‘People are becoming a lot more cost conscious and would rather live in a modern home these days.’

And while most of us love a Victorian build, with all their fanciful ceiling features and sweeping fireplaces, the astronomical cost of homes and energy is forcing us all to rethink design, architecture, sustainability and efficiency – meaning that Monro might very well be onto something.

Inside Out Homes will return to Channel 4 this year. For more on Zac Monro, visit z-m-a.co.uk


 

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