"People prefer traditionally designed buildings"
- YouGov


a YouGov survey published this week claims that the public prefer traditional to contemporary buildings. See press release from Robert Adam Architects below.


In a YouGov survey to determine whether the public prefers traditional or contemporary buildings, a massive 77% of respondents who selected a design, from a choice of 4, chose traditional architecture over contemporary styles. Only 23% chose contemporary buildings. Previous surveys[1] have consistently shown that traditional homes are more popular with the public. This is the first time that a survey has been conducted to find out the people’s preference in relation to non-residential buildings.

The YouGov survey asked 1042 respondents to select a preferred building from a choice of four, in answer to the question “Please imagine a new building is planned to be built near where you live. Four different designs are proposed. Please look at the designs below. Which one would you most like to be built near you?” The illustrations show new buildings of a similar height, size and orientation to the street. Two of the buildings shown are highly regarded examples of a very contemporary style and two are traditional in design. 12% declined to make a choice, but of those who did 77% selected buildings 2 and 3 with just 23% preferring the contemporary buildings 1 and 4.

Coming just three days in advance of The Stirling Prize announcement on 17th October, these results will add fuel to the traditional versus contemporary design debate which has been simmering all year. Since its inception the Stirling Prize has been awarded exclusively to contemporary styled buildings even though new traditional buildings have been recognised for outstanding architecture by other national award givers. This year’s Stirling Prize - the gold standard of architecture, announced on national TV - again features only contemporary buildings on its shortlist.

In an important speech to the RIBA in May 2009 HRH The Prince of Wales contributed to the modernist-traditional debate. Among other things The Prince said that “many people ‘out there’ who aren’t architects, planners, developers or road engineers think about these matters rather differently from the professional mindset. When you provide them with an alternative vision based on the qualities represented by a living tradition……people tend to vote with their feet. But the trouble is that nine times out of ten they are never allowed an alternative, and they are all forced instead to become part of an ongoing experiment.”

Robert Adam, director of traditional practice Robert Adam Architects, said of the YouGov result:

“Architects have been forced to accept that most people like traditionally designed houses because this has been proved over and over again in surveys. But no one had tested the water properly with non-residential buildings. Now we know that the public preference is for traditionally styled offices and public buildings as well. I don’t suppose that it will change how most architects design but now at least they know that they’re doing it in the face of popular disapproval. People made to look foolish by objecting will know that they are not alone. Architects should be designing for the people who have to live with their buildings and so let’s hope that they do take notice. Being traditional doesn’t mean you can’t be original and modern.”

Previous surveys include Attitudes & Decision Making among Home Buyers, prepared for CABE, WWF & HBOS, by Mulholland Research & Consulting, 2004 Design For Homes Popular Housing Research, Perceptions of Privacy & Density in Housing, by Mulholland Research, published by The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2003

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1042 adults. 12% of the sample declined to make a choice.  The figures are based on the 88% of respondents who did make a choice.  Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th - 14th October 2009.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Posted on Friday October 16th 2009 at 12:51 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • my question now: what’s mean exactly “traditionally designed”?…as far you designed it… how can i mesure how traditionally I designed the building?

  • Not surprised at all. People like to stick to the old tried and tested and are naturally slanted against anything which goes drastically against the flow.

    Fortunately there are people out there who love odd and out-there stuff who push the bar of what “traditional” is along.

  • rouwayda habka

    how can i send and publish an architecture projet , a student project ????

  • Ninian

    These words are so ambiguous. What does contemporary really mean in this case? Surely all proposed architecture is contemporary? Also what does traditional mean? Wood over concrete? Pitched roof over flat roof? Small windows and boxey plan over floor to ceiling glazing with open plan living spaces?

    I’m sure if you did a surevey 77% of the general public would choose to watch the X Factor over a cultural radio broadcast or plump for a McDonald’s over a home cooked healthy meal. It doesn’t mean it’s right. I’m sick of this rubbish debate, lets just have some good quality housing actually in our towns and cities that responds to it’s context and doesn’t damage the environment (death to suburbia, it’s killing society not to mention the planet).

  • Michael from Sweden

    Would be interesting to see the 4 pictures mentioned. Dezeen, please post?

    Another thing that most folks in this discussion seems to forget is the relationship to the interior architecture. Yes, maybe many people still prefer pitched roofs and wood panelling on the exterior of their houses. BUT, most people nowdays install a bespoke kitchen or bath in that “old” house. From Boffi to IKEA.

    @ YouGov: Please do the same survey showing different pics of old (40’ies – 80’ies?) and contemporary (’00+) kitchens and bathrooms. You would probably get a totally different result.

    What does this say about people? Hi-tec hidden in an old shell? What does this mean for architecture?

    Is it as simple that people doesn’t like the exterior industrial warehouse typology of most contemporary (and modernist) dwellings? Maybe they don’t want to live in a suburban “industrial” area?

    @ Robert Adam: Can you please explain more in detail how you manage being traditional and modern at the same time? Is it via the above mentioned exterior – interior aspect, or are you putting tripple glazed aluminum windows and solar power into the traditional styled pitched roof wooden villa? Please explain.

    Personal opinion: trying to be contemporary is all about (re-)inventing history and pushing the limits forward. Being traditional is merly interpreting history.

    I know my Vitruvius, but to put people on Mars, what do we need? Interpreters or explorers?

  • People don’t prefer anything; people always change their mind. It’s our jobs to show refreshing new ideas.

  • Redfern

    Surely Robert Adam knows that architecture is too complex to analyse properly through a series of single images, even for those who are in the profession. It must be experienced in relation to its context, function, orientation, uses, etc etc. It is a facile exercise to use a simplistic survey of this nature. In addition, there are many ‘contemporary’ public buildings that have enhanced their surroundings and are extremely popular with the public – the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Tate Modern in London etc.

    Interiors are very important – I wonder if the choice was to work in these non-residential buildings (with interior photos), would people still choose stuffy dark rooms in “traditionally styled offices” over ‘contemporary’ design?

  • Julie

    Just came across this post; building images and more poll information is found here: http://www.robertadamarchitects.com/news.htm?12

  • LB

    Oh the irony. Thirty years ago Lord Rogers declared modernism had brought architecture to the people. He was right, except once the people got a good look at modern architecture they decided it was rubbish. Not before time, too.
    Michael, architecture and amenities are not the same thing. There is no reason why a traditionally designed building can not incorporate a modenr kitchen and bathroom. Your argument to the contrary is so stupid it defies believe. One assumes you are secretly a classicist working to bring down modernism from within.

  • stan

    Would it have made a difference if the survey didn’t include: “Please imagine a new building is planned to be built near where you live… Which one would you most like to be built near you?””

    There is some question as to whether the respondents would have answered the same if it didn’t allude to it “being built near your nice quiet home.” Or is there?