The riba hopes to run 10 pilot projects to create urban-design blueprints to beat the 'grim trench warfare of the planning and development process'.
The projects would cost between £5000 and £15,000, and agendas would cover the entire design process from start to finish, according to Rob Cowan, a consultant in urban affairs who has just completed an urban research audit. The riba and Urban Design Alliance commissioned him to draw up a method for urban design that looked at 'people, places and movement'. He said: 'We need to look at where we want to start rather than what we want to end up with.'
Urban design is not just about the physical, Cowan added, but is about how people - such as architects, urban designers, councils and voluntary groups - work together. His model audit also looks at relationships between spaces such as buildings and streets, addressing how the urban fabric ties into transport and the movement of people.
'For years planners and architects were dug in on opposite ends of no- man's-land,' he said. 'They were up to their knees in mud as they fought the grim trench warfare of the planning and development process. No one was winning.'
Urban design represents the few brave souls sticking their heads above the parapet, he added. Yet more needs to be done to bring decision-makers together to look at potential for design in towns.
The riba and Urban Design Alliance are to approach the detr for funding. They will then invite architects, councils and local groups to apply to work on design audits for projects, said Cowan, who wrote an urban booklet called The Connected City in 1997. These could be as small as neighbourhood schemes or as large as city projects.