The final result of that first meeting is Staiths South Bank, a 760-home development on the banks of River Tyne, Gateshead, built by George Wimpey and with Gerardine and Wayne leading the design.
Their aim, along with George Wimpey City and architects Ian Darby Partnership, was a simple one: to create a development that offers choice. Choice of elevation and layout; choice in the mix of house types; and choice in the way that people live their lives. It marries contemporary design with a nostalgic nod to community values and community facilities that have all but disappeared from the landscape. It is a development where everyone can recognise their own home because no two look the same, where children can play safely and free from cars, and where private gardens open out into shared spaces where residents can get to know each other if they want to.
But let's not pretend that it wasn't a hard slog. The early years of the Staiths were full of debate and arguments over what Wayne and Gerardine envisioned for the project versus the pre-existing (and utterly ridiculous) constraints applied to housing developments, which were widely regarded as accepted practice. They wanted to build communal barbecues, outdoor table tennis facilities and prioritise green open space over allocated parking, and their counterparts believed they'd be inviting crime, vandalism and the cooking of neighbours' cats – we kid you not.
Thankfully, the pair stood by their design guns and trusted in the end user – and it worked. The Staiths is a run-away success and is now used as an exemplar of urban housing.
Since then, HemingwayDesign has not only become an award-winning specialist in this field, but we're creating a new, sustainable and infinitely liveable style of mass-market development. And all this from a bit of complaining – not bad, eh? Read The Staiths retrospective here.
"I lived on The Staiths from 2011 to 2013 when working in the North East. Moving from Liverpool I had arranged to spend two days in the area and had a list of properties booked in, this was the first. I'll never forget the day I drove onto the estate for the property viewing; I was immediately struck by the layout and style, beautiful established landscaped areas mixed with communal play and social areas that gave the feel of community and quality of lifestyle.The different many house and apartment designs also gave a sense of style, care and uniqueness which was a lovely tonic from the uniform 'pack em in' style of some housing developments.
The creative flair really appealed to me. I didn't even bother to look at the other properties! I loved every minute of living there and felt like I had the best of both worlds. Minutes from the city (or a half an hour walk by the side of the gorgeous Tyne) but the feeling of living in a green oasis when enjoying being home. The balconies off my bedroom and living room were awesome and I so loved admiring the swans, the river activity and beautiful sunsets from them.The nicest place I've ever lived." - Emma Foxall
"It's such a unique area. The estate has a wonderful village like quality to the community which is rarely found anywhere. A village within a city. Such a special place, where even the wildlife is content." - Staiths Resident
"A unique place to live with very special sunsets! I love the Staiths structure itself, there's no other like it. I've also never appreciated being part of a community as much as I do here!" - Staiths Resident
"Me and my two children have lived here for almost nine years after we moved from Spain. We have always felt safe here and I always feel good driving into the estate at the end of each day. It has the community feel that is often only associated with well established rural villages. It's a great place to call home!"- Staiths Resident
To read more about the Staiths development, visit our blog.