Written by Sir Terry Farrell CBE

This week senior representatives from over 20 institutions and agencies involved in the built environment will be meeting at the Design Council to discuss “The Farrell Review: What Next?”. It seems like a good time to reflect on progress so far including a number of potential ‘pilot’ projects which aim to demonstrate how the recommendations can work in practice.

The review was very broad in scope covering early education in schools, professional education, adult outreach, skilling up decision makers, proactive planning and design quality, cultural heritage, economic benefits and built environment policy. It was also independently funded and is independent of party politics having engaged with Labour’s shadow Culture Minister and All Party Parliamentary Groups.

There were 60 recommendations in total aimed at central and local government, professional and cultural institutions, built environment agencies including architecture centres, the media and PLACE professionals (using the acronym for Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Conservation and Engineering). The aim was to create a road map for everyone involved to play their part and help bring about the culture change that is needed – making architecture and the built environment a major public issue like health or food. As the review is so broad, the intention was always for action to be taken from the ‘bottom up’ and to be dispersed and disaggregated.

One of the most significant developments is the intention of Bristol to act as a ‘test bed’ for the review’s recommendations under the leadership of Mayor and architect George Ferguson. Some of the recommendations that could be implemented on a ‘city wide’ basis in cities like Bristol include training planning committee members and highway engineers in design literacy; forming a multi-disciplinary PLACE review panel to review existing places like high streets, mega hospitals or housing estates and creating an urban room with a model to explore the past, present and future of that place.

Similar interest has been expressed by Kent School of Architecture to explore how they could act as a pilot for the review. Recommendations including a broad foundation course in the PLACE subjects; exchanges with construction training courses; adding business planning, development economics, retrofitting and refurbishment to course content as well as apprenticeships and sandwich courses to make architecture more accessible will be the subject of ongoing discussions with them.

The Greater London Authority, who responded to the consultation for the review about skills and resources within local authority planning departments, are interested in the acronym PLACE to better describe the multidisciplinary and collaborative nature of the built environment. Design South East have also indicated their supported for rebranding their design review service as PLACE review to ensure it is more collaborative and broader in scope. In Southwark, the Shad Thames Area Management Partnership (STAMP) believe they could provide a “test bed” for how the outreach ideas might be implemented benefitting from the active engagement of councillors, residents and businesses as well as the neighbouring Business Improvement District

Virtual urban rooms will be on the agenda at one of many workshops on the Farrell Review organised by Urban Design Group on the 22nd May and Assembly Studios has expressed an interest in using their online creative network platform as a potential Virtual Urban Room System (www.creativeassemblyuk.com).

Other workshops and seminars focusing on next steps and are being organised by the Design Network (with speakers including the Government’s Chief Construction Advisor and Mathew Carmona of UCL Bartlett) as well as regional events in Yorkshire, Manchester and Newcastle.

At the recent event in Birmingham, locations were identified for a potential urban room and the architecture centre MADE is in discussions with the local authority about offering PLACE review services in return for skilling up decision makers in design and placemaking.

For school education, there is a consensus emerging that the ‘open source’ website www.engagingplaces.org.uk is the right platform to provide teacher training toolkits and lesson plans on a national basis. We will be appealing to the government and the institutions to support the development of this website so that the built environment can be taught through many different subjects at the earliest age possible.

For more information about the review, including PDF downloads, visit www.farrellreview.co.uk.

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