Sir Terry Farrell makes recommendations for the Future of Architecture and the Built Environment

The Farrell Review, an unprecedented, industry-wide review of architecture and the built environment, led by Sir Terry Farrell and commissioned by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, was published.

After a wide-reaching consultation process including workshops throughout the country, the findings have been compiled into a report with 60 recommendations. Some of the key recommendations are;

  • There needs to be a revolution in the planning system to make it proactive rather than reactive, anticipating rather than responding to the future needs of our towns and cities. By planning proactively like other countries do, we would anticipate issues like the national housing
  • shortage or susceptibility to flooding and address them before they reach crisis levels.
  • There should be PLACE reviews of existing places like high streets, mega-hospitals and housing estates and of infrastructure projects like rail, road and aviation improvements (using the acronym PLACE to describe the key disciplines of Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Conservation and Engineering).
  • Every town and city should have an urban room where people can go to understand and debate the past, present and future of that place.
  • Architects’ professional training needs to be radically reformed to make it much more accessible to all.
  • Britain’s considerable strength in architecture, and its success as an export industry, should be championed with an International Festival of Architecture to be held in London annually.
  • Government should appoint a Chief Architect reporting to DCMS and DCLG at the highest level.

This role should be similar to the Chief Planner and Chief Construction Adviser, connecting up government departments and maintaining high standards and consistency of approach.

Recommendations also include:

1. Education, Outreach and Skills

  • Architecture and the built environment should be taught as early as possible in school education and through many different subjects.
  • Alternative routes into a career in architecture should be made available, such as apprenticeships, to make it accessible to all.
  • Government should formally consider the value of statutory protection of title for architects. In the UK, anyone can provide architectural services as long as they do not call themselves an architect. The protection of title while there is no protection of the function of architectural design is misguided.
  • Each local authority should nominate “Civic Champions” – a built environment professional from the private sector and an elected member to champion local design quality and engage with neighbourhood forums.
  • Built environment practices should enter into partnerships with local authorities to “champion the civic” through education and outreach.
  • An urban room in every town and city should be created to understand the past, present and future of that place.
  • Planning committee members and highway engineers should receive basic training in place making and design literacy and it should be given the same status as legal and financial training for elected Councillors.

2. Design Quality

  • Local planning authorities should use planning fees to recruit more design-literate planners for placemaking teams and attract and retain the best individuals for planning departments.
  • Design Review Panels should become PLACE Review Panels using the acronym to ensure all the key disciplines are represented (Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Conservation and Engineering).
  • Public-sector developments that are not subject to normal planning, such as national infrastructure projects, should be subject to PLACE Reviews.
  • Existing everyday places should be reviewed like high streets, mega-hospitals and housing estates.
  • Public figures and broadcasters should do more to popularise and communicate good design, so that it becomes an assumed part of our everyday lives.

3. Cultural Heritage

  • English Heritage and PLACE Review Panels should provide a single co-ordinated response to statutory planning consultations as it’s not “either/or” any more
  • English Heritage should assess the value of heritage assets in a more geographically, socially and historically equitable way. The process of listing buildings should be more democratic and transparent, particularly for listings of local significance.
  • Government should reduce VAT rates on renovation and repair to 5% and incentivise retrofitting buildings rather than demolishing them and building new Local Government should see future heritage in resource terms and introduce policies and incentives for the adaptability and durability of new buildings, including minimum lifespans of sixty years.

4. Economic Benefits

  • We should celebrate the success of built environment design in this country with an International Festival of Architecture in London to be held annually
  • The Treasury should recognise building design as closely connected to manufacturing and acknowledge its true value for exports. Ministers and government officials should provide official endorsement to built environment professionals working on projects and competitions overseas.
  • UKTI should represent the built environment professions as one industry to meet the global challenges of sustainable urbanisation rather than separating them into creative industries and construction.
  • UKTI should establish a “Global Built Environment Forum” with representatives from the PLACE institutions and built environment agencies to jointly identify markets, sectors and themes. These institutions should promote their successful methods overseas.
  • The Treasury Green Book should be updated to mandate that design quality and sustainability considerations are taken into account when measuring the value of public spending.
  • The RICS, the Construction Industry Council and PLACE institutions should work together to define a new method for valuing property which includes measurable space standards and design quality.

5. Built Environment Policy

  • Government should establish a PLACE Leadership Council, with Ministerial representation from DCMS and DCLG and public- and private-sector representation to provide a strategy for improving design quality within the everyday built environment and a culture change in favour of proactive planning.
  • Government should appoint a Chief Architect to sit alongside the Chief Planner and Chief Construction Adviser on the PLACE Leadership Council.
  • All government departments and government-funded bodies should sign up to an agreed set of principles and produce a joined-up design policy statement which is consistent on issues like procurement, accessibility and sustainability.

Sir Terry Farrell said:

“The issues covered by this Review are not of academic or specialist interest. They are relevant to some of the most pressing and important issues of our time like the shortage and affordability of housing; the urgent need to reduce our carbon emissions and the flooding crisis that recently afflicted so much of the country. Through proactive, rather than reactive, planning we can tackle these problems.

“We have some of the best architects in the world in this country yet it is hard to see how this translates into the everyday experience in our towns and cities. Industry leaders and built environment professionals should connect to the everyday much more and focus on making the ordinary better, not just one-off exceptional projects.

“The Review also discusses access to architecture. We risk becoming an elitist profession and, at the same time, losing our world-ranking status if we do not radically overhaul architectural training and open it up to a wider range of people.

“This is the century of global city making and urbanisation on a scale never seen before with an amount of development equivalent to a city the size of Birmingham being built every week around the world. At the same time, a new era of intellectual and cultural exchange between cities is emerging. Our world-renowned institutions, agencies and professionals should be at the forefront of this, whilst recognising we have much to learn from others.

“The digital age that we live in presents extraordinary opportunities and affects every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Global communications, new technologies and citizen participation will transform the way we plan, design and manage our built environment.

“I hope this Review will be the catalyst for change and the start of a big conversation about our built environment, making it a major public issue like health and food. There are few things that are more important to us than the places we live in. I look forward to continuing to work with government and industry to translate this vision into a reality.”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

“I am immensely grateful to Sir Terry Farrell, his team and all those who contributed to what I believe has been the most wide-ranging exercise that has taken place in the sector for several generations. We all know that good design builds communities, creates quality of life and makes places better for people to live, work and play in.

“I hope the five themes that run through the report will be the start of a dialogue within the industry about how the sector can build on its success and recognise the importance of architecture and design in all aspects of our lives.”

The Farrell Review is the result of an extensive consultation process that has taken place over a period of 12 months. Sir Terry Farrell conducted the process independently with an expert panel of 11 top industry figures and hosted extensive thematic and other workshops, an online call for evidence and conversations with Ministers from different political parties, all-party parliamentary groups, institutions, agencies and individuals.

The Farrell Review will continue to engage with the architecture and built environment industry and Ed Vaizey MP has committed to regular meetings with the Panel. The Farrell Review website will track the progress of the Review, whilst being a useful source of information for the industry. The website address is www.farrellreview.co.uk.