The launch of the London Festival of Architecture at the RIBA was the ideal opportunity for Ed Vaizey (Minister for Architecture) and Terry Farrell to launch the online call for evidence for the Farrell Review. It was a lively debate covering a lot of ground – important questions and issues were raised by the panel as well as the public audience. The other Panellists for the event included Pat Brown (Chair of Mayor’s Design Advisory Group), Rob Perrins (Managing Director of Berkeley Group), Vicky Richardson (Director of Architecture, Design and Fashion at the British Council) and was chaired by Kirsty Wark of BBC Newsnight.
Vicky Richardson’s point that the aims of this Review had to be taken up by architects and industry professionals as well as by government was echoed by Rob Perrins. Rob went one step further by emphasising the need for more trust and co-operation between architects, planners and developers in order to achieve truly great outcomes for our built environment. Putting his money where his mouth is, he also agreed to take on five graduate architects next year to ensure these skill sets are fully integrated within his own organisation. His recent article on the review in Property Week expands on his appeal for more visionary thinking and less procedures and standards.
Ed Vaizey again stated his personal commitment to making sure the review makes a difference and is listened to and has an impact throughout Whitehall. His conversations with other Ministers including Nick Boles MP (Planning Minister) and Mark Prisk MP (Housing Minister) had been very positive, he said, and there was generally a high level of support for the aims of the review within other government departments. What the minister wants is a coherent narrative that can help inform architectural policy as well as a stocktake of where the society is and global changes that affect architecture and the built environment in the UK.
Terry Farrell stressed the importance of learning from other countries in terms of what does and doesn’t work and what might be appropriate for the UK. In New York and Paris they employ architects to be part of the creative process. Planners in the UK tend to be more reactive and restricted by development control and Terry challenged the architectural community to help by acting as thought leaders and influencing government policy on infrastructure and the public realm through ‘urban activism’. Accessibility into the profession was an important issue, as was picked up in this BD article about the event, and we need to think about the cost of architectural education and what that means for most people in today’s world. We need to think differently about heritage too. Old buildings can be instant ‘placemakers’ and create real value when sensitively and intelligently brought back to life. With 70% of existing buildings expected to be with us in 2050 we must address our existing building stock through retrofitting in the same way other countries have.
Pat Brown offered sage advice and highlighted the need to think long term and beyond political and financial cycles if we are to create better places and truly sustainable cities. The process needs to be a mature one which allows for the time, patience and trust required to make a real difference.
All in all, a great event and huge level of interest and enthusiasm for the aims of the review. You can get involved and submit your view on this website until 19th July 2013.
(Photo credits: Agnese Sanvito)