The GLA's Architecture and Urbanism Unit, set up to advise Ken Livingstone on public realm issues, has appointed Mark Brearley to the £40,000-ayear post of 'urban designer'.
Brearley, who took up his post last week, is one of just three full-time members of staff. Unit head Lord Rogers puts in two days a week, while Ricky Burdett, head of the cities programme at the LSE, devotes just one day each week to the group.
Brearley is a founding partner of six-strong practice East, the architecture and urban design firm which was last month shortlisted for a housing competition run by the Architecture Foundation and Circle 33 (AJ 28.6.01). The practice is also producing an urban design strategy for the redevelopment of Arsenal Football Club's stadium in north London.
Brearley trained at Cambridge and until last week was a tutor at the University of East London.
He is not employed as an architect, but will 'cajole, encourage and advise' planners, developers and architects working in the capital. His immediate task is to identify a handful of urban regeneration projects which the unit can hold up as exemplars for local authorities. He anticipates producing a good practice report 'in coming weeks'.
He has committed the unit to greater 'openness' in running regeneration schemes. 'I'm certainly going to be making the link between openness and quality, ' said Brearley, who also aims to build good relationships with the boroughs. 'We have the potential to intervene where things aren't going well, but we can only work with the grain.'
Speaking last week at the launch of the document 'Design for a Greater London', produced by the RIBA's London region (AJ 24.5.01), Ricky Burdett said the unit's task was 'to stop horrible things happening' in much the same way as Barcelona had done. At the same event, deputy mayor Nicky Gavron said she was 'horrified' that Renzo Piano's 300m-high tower proposed for London Bridge was not linked to a masterplan for the area. She called this lapse 'utterly, utterly shocking'.
The GLA assembly has proved to be largely powerless on planning matters, says a new report by Drivas Jonas and the London Communications Agency. Ken Livingstone has adopted a 'highly personalised' approach to the built environment, says the report 'The GLA One Year On', adding that his interventions have created 'a costly and uncertain middle planning tier for London'.