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Farrell Review: the profession reacts

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The profession has reacted to Terry Farrell’s year-long inquiry into the future of architecture and the built environment

RIBA president Stephen Hodder

‘Although we have some of the most talented architects in the world and see many great buildings delivered in the UK, the quality of everyday architecture – particularly new housing developments – remains derisory. We are therefore pleased that Sir Terry’s Review has looked at the root-causes of this mediocrity in such a holistic way and presented many interesting ideas to help bring about a cultural shift in the way we think about and shape the future of our towns and cities.

‘We are pleased that the Review has reflected many of our recommendations, particularly the focus on a more coordinated and consistent approach to design across government and the need for stronger leadership from decision-makers. This has been sorely lacking over the years and we hope that Government will map out in detail how it will take the Review’s recommendations forward. Government must not allow the report to gather dust on the shelf – they need to take responsibility for implementing it in partnership with industry.

‘We also welcome that the Review’s focus on changing the dynamic within the planning system, which is unnecessarily adversarial, too reactive and often fails to provide the vision required to set out a clear plan for the future of places. Ultimately, this will require a significant shift an expansion in resources within planning departments. If we believe that planning can play a positive role in delivering great places and setting strong expectations on quality, then we have to start resourcing it properly.’

Sue Illman, president of the Landscape Institute

‘The Landscape Institute is committed to ‘inspiring great places’ and welcomes the Farrell Review’s promotion of a new understanding of ‘PLACE’ bringing together planning, landscape, architecture, conservation and engineering. This is a major step forward in recognising the need to fully integrate planning and design of the places that we create and maintain.

‘The Review acknowledges that ‘landscape is the primary infrastructure’ and that one of the greatest failures of focusing on development control is the quality of the public realm and that there is a need to strengthen the contribution of landscape, urban design and public art in making great places. We fully support the idea that funding for landscape should be demanded from developers by local authorities.

‘Following the LI’s recent publication on public health we particularly welcome the acknowledgement of the way in which public health can be ‘improved by creating human-scale pedestrian friendly spaces.’”

“Landscape architecture addresses both the built and the natural environment, therefore the commitment to a new level of connectedness between Institutes and government departments, (a theme echoed in our recent letter to the Prime Minister on the prevention of flooding) is welcomed. The flooding of the past few months illustrated the way in which different elements of the natural and built environment need to be fully coordinated and integrated in order to both tackle and prevent this type of disaster. A considered and integrated approach to how we create, plan and manage places is a highly desirable way forward.

‘The proposal to create a foundation year for all of those choosing a career in the built environment is a good way to ensure that the next generation of practitioners fully understand cross-disciplinary working and is equipped to meet the need to understand sustainability as well as design.

‘The proposal to create PLACE review panels which will recognise the knowledge of the professionals from each of these fields is welcomed.   The proposal for design quality champions within local authorities and the establishment of the PLACE Leadership Council is recognition of the need to address all aspects of the built environment at both the national and local level.’

Freddie Gick, chair of Civic Voice

‘We are glad to see Sir Terry Farrell produce this report which shines a light on the importance of place making. A planning system that focuses on place-making and recognises distinctiveness through visionary local leadership will give certainty to both developers and communities.

‘Several items we have long been campaigning for are being recommended by the review. Specifically, we have been championing the need for each local authority to have a “neighbourhood planning champion”, so we are glad that the review goes further and calls for “Civic Champions” - a built environment professional from the private sector and an elected member - to champion local design quality and engage with neighbourhood forums. Our members who are already civic champions will welcome this idea”.

‘Our cities, towns and villages can become great through celebrating local distinctiveness, having strong civic leadership, and giving communities a voice. We look forward to considering the details of the report and sharing the contents with our 75,000 members’. 

Liz Peace, chief executive, British Property Federation

‘The important thing that this review takes into consideration is that a careful, proportionate approach should be taken to planning. Sustainable and sympathetic design is of course important, but we would be wary of agreeing that ‘time’ is the best test of a well built building. Communities and their needs change over time, and it is important to keep an element of flexibility within the system so that we can adapt to that.’

John Alker, director of policy and communications, UK Green Building Council

‘Sir Terry Farrell is quite right to address sustainability and the need for a low carbon future in his Review. It comes on the same day the IPCC warns that climate change is already on our doorstep, emphasising that nowhere is the fight against it – in terms of both mitigation and adaptation – more important than the built environment.’

Alan Shingler, partner and head of sustainability, Sheppard Robson

‘I was invited to a Farrell Review ‘Sustainability Session’ attended by some prominent figures in the field of sustainability and whilst this is a difficult topic to cover in a few bullet points I am disappointed that sustainability doesn’t appear to feature as a key component in the recommendations. The Farrell Review of Architecture + the Built Environment recommendations are addressed to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and have naturally focussed around Design; however, if PLACE is going to be used  as an acronym for the design skills needed (as it is in the report) surely the E should represent a skill set related to the environment?

‘On the same day that the IPCC report on the impacts of climate change is published, I am becoming increasing worried that mitigating the impact of climate change and future-proofing the built environment against predetermined climate change is seen to be too challenging and thus ignored. There needs to be a cultural shift where society measures success based on the environmental impact as well as growth; this  would  not shy away or dilute environmental policies but addresses the major issues with conviction.

‘There should be a cross-cutting Built Environment Design Policy which sets out a long-term vision for sustainable places, driving and informing the built environment at every level of Government. This should not sit within another department it should sit within the Cabinet Office.’

Amir Ramezani, director, Avanti Architects

I don’t believe architecture and design within the built environment can be divorced from the fundamentals of design procurement, fees levels & the under capitalised nature of most architectural practices or the absence of leadership within many project teams. In this respect I don’t feel I have learnt anything new from the review. 

Clare Devine, director of architecture and built environment, Design Council

‘The publication of the Farrell Review is an opportune moment to take stock, consider new thinking and identify areas to address in the challenges facing architecture and the built environment.

‘Good quality places matter, and the Review quite rightly identifies the value of a PLACE (Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Conservation and Engineering) based approach to secure the benefits of good design.

‘The Cabe team’s fifteen years delivering direct support to all participants in the planning process has demonstrated the importance of taking this approach.

‘As the national, independent and cross-disciplinary built environment body we will continue to work with central and local government, industry and local communities to deliver great quality places and identify areas of the Review that can be taken forward.’

Terry Brown, president, ACA

‘The review comes at a critical time, with an increasing interest of the public in architecture and the built environment, as is demonstrated through the popular media.But the majority still don’t get what architects do, nor the breadth of possibilities a well-conducted design process opens up.

‘The inclusive tenor is welcome. The need to look to present demands in a context of conservation is appreciated and in particular the idea of PLACE is attractive and could catch on.

‘And if, as it seems, the report is recommending the government look again at the principle of protection of function for the architectural profession, we would also welcome this.’

Sunand Prasad, former RIBA president

‘It is important to remember that this report, while commissioned by the government, was produced by the architecture profession and is as much for architects.

‘A gauge of whether this has been successful will not be how much the government now spends [on it recommendations] or how policy is changed.

‘What cities do with this report is as important as what central government does. And what is needed is that people are committed to it – and there is plenty here for people to get behind.

‘The elements on education in the report are a massive endorsement of SCHOSA’s Pathways and Gateways findings.’

Russell Brown, co-founder, Hawkins\Brown

‘The question is, will anybody in the High Street actually read it? Is it going to be tomorrow’s fish and chip paper? I just can’t see the report having any impact at grassroots level. 

‘The heart is in the right place but I don’t get the feeling that the process they’ve gone through has really engaged the man in the street.

‘The people the review has consulted with are really elitist – all the people that I endlessly meet at the RIBA. The whole profession needs to get out more.

‘As Russell Brand might say, those consulted don’t represent anybody. It is a very government-facing report. And where are the nice examples for those using it?’

Flora Samuel, head of University of Sheffield School of Architecture

‘[Studies show] that if people don’t know what an architect does, or what an architect is, they don’t see the point in employing one.

‘The fact that architecture is so inaccessible just makes the situation worse, so I am really supportive of the idea of creating alternative routes into the profession.

‘Also I’ve long wondered why more architects didn’t get involved in the making of neighbourhood plans, at least in England. My research shows we need neighbourhood architects, who can, with a light touch, help people to get involved with the architecture of their own communities.

‘If this is what a “Civic Champion” is, that is a great idea. My only concern is that people don’t seem to pay too much attention to “Champions” and still fewer people are prepared to pay for them.

‘If you look, for example, at the work of [urbanist group] Supertanker in Copenhagen, a great deal depends on who is paying for the services as to whether the champion is seen to be impartial.’








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