The new chairman of the Urban Design Alliance, engineer Mark Whitby, has called on his members to concentrate harder on the minutiae of urban design, such as kerb stones, bollards and signage.
Whitby wants to see a more 'bottom-up approach' to urban design work and sees improvements in streetscapes as a vital first step. In particular, he called for a more flexible interpretation of the rules which determine urban road layouts and has called on his own profession to take better account of design when implementing local authority engineering works.
'Most local authority work on infrastructure is done without any thought about urban design, ' he told the AJ. 'We cannot really move forward with urban design and delivering well-designed higher densities until we get this out of the way.'
His message to architects was similar: 'I'd like to encourage architects to get involved in a programme of incremental improvements to improve people's journeys [around cities].'
Most rules on the design of roads date back to the 1950s and 1960s, some even stem from the 1930s, he said. 'The quality of life can be improved with a series of small steps.'
Whitby pledged that the alliance of seven major urban design professions will campaign for better design training for civil engineers and planners.