After the Second World War, 150 000 prefabricated homes (“Prefabs”) were built in the most heavily bombed towns in the UK. Targeted at, and designed for, homeless young families with young children, these “palaces for the people” (as they were called at the time) were synonymous not only with comfort and luxury but also with freedom from the cramped and unsanitary urban housing of pre-War Britain. At the time of construction, many municipalities introduced the estate layouts that they intended to use when replacing the temporary accommodation a decade later. These estates were arranged following the formal geometry then popular in municipal design: large greens, crescents and other attractive features. Such planning innovations contributed to the instant sense of community that many felt upon moving into their ‘temporary’ homes.

Intended to be a temporary solution to the post-war housing crisis, the Prefabs were supposed to last only ten years. But, sixty years later, all around the UK, hundreds of prefabs are still lived in. Prefab residents have been struggling for years to save their bungalows from premature demolition. The residents love their Prefabs, and they are not very fond of the alternative usually offered to them. Swapping a mini-palace for a one bedroom flat is not a preferred option. However, there are also some estates where things have been very well handled: in Newport the residents are being moved in clusters, keeping their neighbours and hopefully the sense of community of the estate.

Elisabeth Blanchet