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Signoff: David Taylor

THINGS are hotting up nicely in the world of high-density key-worker accommodation developments - and not just because they're all crammed on top of each other in high-tech buildings that exceed the requirements of the new Part L of the building regulations.

John Prescott, the champion of high-density brownfield development, came in for a lot of stick last week when he announced that he wanted 'literally considerable solutions in terms of thousands of regional new homes' built across the south-east of England over the next three years. Or words to that effect.

I heard one indignant observer complaining that a huge house building scheme in Milton Keynes would ruin the area, as if Milton Keynes hadn't done that for itself already.

But Mr Prescott doesn't want to cover vast swathes of the green belt with ugly little matchboxes for the proletariat. For a start, green belt doesn't come in vast swathes, it comes in narrow strips.

Also, Mr Prescott remains true to his own planning guidelines and wants the ugly little matchboxes stacked one on top of the other in the barren, run-down wastelands east of London: think Ronan Point without the gas leak.

Architects have not been slow to respond to this need for new, highdensity brownfield developments.

Take Julia Barfield, one half of the fashionable Marks Barfield practice that brought us the London Eye, for example. She has been on the radio this week calling for the return of the tower block.

Ms Barfield believes the only reason for the failure of the horrid systembuilt tower blocks typical of the 1960s and '70s was insensitive design. She says we can learn from our mistakes and that her 50-storey tower blocks would have a swimming pool on the roof.

Also, children could play safely because they would never have to leave the building. Scary.

Rather more appealing is the idea put forward by trendy Bluebase, a practice based in the Clerkenwell district of London.

Bluebase Modular Accommodation System, a concept inspired in equal parts by Lego and brussels sprouts, consists of a number of 'demountable living units', rather like shipping containers, that clip onto the side of a central stalk, which provides the lift, stairs and services.

You simply clip your sprout to the six-storey stalk and join the high-rise community, man.

When you come to move, just unclip your sprout, pop it on the back of a lorry, and off you go to a new stalk.

If you fancy a holiday, why not unclip your sprout, truck it to Harwich and spend the next three weeks in a container ship on a budget cruise?

It's a nice idea but it has not been properly thought through. Suppose everybody on one side of the stalk decided to move all at once. Wouldn't the stalk fall over?

YOU KNOW an architect is at the absolute cutting edge when you can't decide where you're supposed to put the capital letters in its name - if it's got capital letters, that is.

That's how I know that the designer of one particular high-density, low-impact, prefabricated living podule is truly avant-garde: it's called Mae Iip (or Mae IIp/lIp/llp/Ilp - take your pick, only pay particular attention to the joining by a ligature of the 'a' and 'e' in the first part of the name).

I can't even say it, let alone spell it.

How funky is that?

This outfit has designed a house on wheels that can be delivered to site in two parts and bolted together. This has been hailed as truly revolutionary.

Because it's on wheels, it can be erected on a greenfield site without planning permission, as it is legally classified as a caravan.

But what's so clever about that?

Real caravans don't need bolting together.