There is no recipe, of course, only a hunger for living space

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The Independent Online

The explosion in London's population raises one central question: Where will the newcomers live? For the answer, all eyes will turn to the Government's urban task force and its leader, the architect Lord Rogers of Riverside. Either its recommendations will kickstart a complex and fraught renaissance of housing-led regeneration, or they will turn out to be hot air.

In its urban White Paper, the task force recommended tax breaks for the development of sites and set out guidelines for higher-density housing. The Government, meanwhile, started a building programme on a scale unseen since the postwar period.

Until Lord Rogers' insistence that good architecture was a key cultural tool, housing was hardly trendy among innovative architects, despite the fact that, in London, 70 per cent of buildings are homes.

The challenge, now more urgent, is for new approaches to design, often on ropey sites: architecture that makes lives. Fortunately, there are signs that talented young architects are tackling this area.

The challenge, says Paul Grover of the Architecture Foundation, is quality. Its chairman, Will Alsop, said there should be "a strong focus on creating socially and ecologically sustainable neighbourhoods". People were more likely to look after well- designed buildings, he said.

But how to do it? Is the answer Prince Charles's development in St Austell, Cornwall, or radical developments such as Doris Place in Hackney, east London? And what about high-rise homes such as the towers at Greenwich planned by Marks Barfield, designers of the London Eye?

There is no recipe, of course, only a hunger for living space; space that feels owned and worth looking after. Architects and planners must understand the complexity of what faces them, including sometimes intractable social issues. The failures, compromises and blunders that have plagued corporate architecture could resurface with a vengeance. Losing money is one thing; condemning people to homes fit for losers is quite another.

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