Sir Parker Morris (1891-1972)

Set the standards for housing design

Although Sir Parker Morris' seminal government report, Homes for Today & Tomorrow, was published in 1961 it was only by the end of the decade that the impact of its generous space standards for housing was felt. The so-called Parker Morris standards only became mandatory for housing in new towns in 1967 and it was another two years until it was compulsory for all council homes.

Morris, who had been a town clerk for Westminster council, argued that people needed to be guaranteed better quality homes to match the improvement in living standards. Among his conclusions was that there should be at least one toilet in dwellings with up to three bedrooms and that there should be heating systems for kitchens. As a result, slum housing that failed to meet the standards was demolished.

Unfortunately, in a government measure to lower public spending, the standards stopped being mandatory in 1980, and little of the public housing built in the quarter of a century since meets all of Morris' aspirations.

Jon Rouse, chief executive of the Housing Corporation, says: "It is a remarkable testament that despite the passage of 40 years, the space standards conceived by Parker Morris are still regarded widely within the affordable housing sector as a benchmark to be strived for. Parker Morris was perhaps the first to sow the seeds of what we now call sustainable housing."

In his own words: "This approach … starts with a clear recognition of these various activities and their relative importance in social, family and individual lives, and goes on to assess the conditions necessary for their pursuit in terms of space, atmosphere, efficiency, comfort, furniture and equipment." From Homes for Today & Tomorrow.

 

Three key dates:

1960 Co-founded housing development agency, the Housing Association Charitable Trust
1961 Publication of Homes for Today & Tomorrow
1969 Parker Morris standards made compulsory for all council housing

The 1961 report that made Sir Parker Morris’ name synonymous with improved housing standards