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New Design Network emerges as ACN readies for revival

A group of local review panels and architecture centres have joined to create a new national design review network, while the troubled Architecture Centre Network could be revived ‘within weeks’

The Design Network umbrella body launches just six months after the Architecture Centre Network (ACN) was shut down following funding cuts.

The eight members, all in England, are drawn from the existing Cabe affiliated network of design review providers. They include the Kent Architecture Centre, MADE and OPUN in the East Midlands. A Design Network spokesperson said it was hoped Cabe’s London Design Review panel would also join.

The alliance, setup to promote ‘better and more sustainable places’, includes Creating Excellence and IntegreatPLUS which were absent from the 20-strong ACN when it shut down last June.

Design Network members:

  • Creating Excellence - covering the South West
  • Kent Architecture Centre – covering the South East
  • IntegreatPLUS – covering Yorkshire & the Humber
  • MADE – covering the West Midlands
  • North East Design Review & Enabling Service (NE DRES)
  • OPUN – the architecture centre for the East Midlands
  • Places Matter! - covering the North West
  • Shape East - covering the East of England

Former ACN chief executive Bridget Sawyers said the Design Network had nothing to do with the ACN which is expected to be resurrected ‘within weeks’.

She said: ‘All of the architecture centres are currently working together and they will be in due course making an announcement.’

The membership criteria for ACN’s successor is currently being thrashed out according to Sawyers, who suggested the new network would be unstaffed and include a small membership fee.

Sawyers was unable to confirm whether new organisation would have fewer members than before. Former ACN members included the now-closed CUBE in Manchester (pictured) and Arc in Hull.

The yet-to-be-named successor body will take over the ACN’s website, IP address and remaining funds when the shelved network formally shuts down in the coming weeks. At this point Sawyers will step down alongside ACN chair Peter Bishop.

Commenting on the newly formed Design Network, Sawyers added: ‘This is reinforcing [the affiliated network’s] identity as being separate from CABE.’ 

The Design Network’s establishment follows the endorsement of good design and design review in the National Planning Policy Framework last April.

Services provided by its members will include training, community engagement, economic development, design workshops and neighbourhood planning support.

They will also advise on the new Building for Life which has been re-launched following the abandoning of its network of accredited assessors and points-based assessment system last year.

Cabe chair Paul Finch said: ‘[We are] supportive of the group, and we are pleased that our support for these centres over many years has helped to lay the foundations for the new grouping.’

RIBA chief executive Harry Rich said: ‘The quality of the built environment affects us all.  Design Review is a respected method of improving the quality of development by offering constructive, impartial and expert advice.  The RIBA actively supports design review and is pleased to be working with the Design Network.’

Richard Motley, managing director of IntegreatPLUS added: ‘The Design Network will offer a comprehensive design led support service for business, communities and Local authorities to achieve their economic social ,and environmental place based ambitions.’  

MADE chief executive David Tittle said: ‘The Design Network is not replacing the ACN. The ACN is being reformed at the moment and we are supporting that process.

He added: ‘The Design Network is for those organisations that are part of the national design review network and includes two organisations that have never been architecture centres.’

Readers' comments (1)

  • Richard Motley here strangely sounds like someone who knows nothing about architecture but is a kafka-esque remnant of some regional infrastructure that has long passed its 'use by' date... ..but I might be wrong?

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