Dezeen Magazine

"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+).