Leadership in Design

Leadership in design of the built environment

watson-House-P1030003 I was attending a meeting of combined community council two years ago, when to members of the public who were in attendance made very similar appeals. Both were very upset with the quality of the redevelopments that had appeared within their street, despite the local communities objections about key aspects of the developments.

As far as I could ascertain, they were not necessarily opposed to the infill of their suburb. It was more about the nature of the apartments being built.

Both these passionate people finished their stories with a plea for good design to become a consideration when developments are being approved by the local planning authority. To paraphrase, they both said: ‘ The architects are always talking about good design, where are they? These buildings in our streets are a disaster, they are not designed well , they do nothing for the neighbourhood character, and will not last more than ten years”.

Given the urgent requirement for planning authorities around the world to reconsider their approaches, it is indeed timely to consider all aspects of what our future suburbs will look like.


So far when left to their own, the development industry, with the blessing of their property councils and master building associations, have delivered ‘new communities’ which are in the majority, future heat islands. As the temperatures are guaranteed now to be on the increase, due to the lack of real action on climate change, these new developments and many of the new developments  are potentially harmful to the next generations.

To make matters worse, the architectural and landscape architectural aspects of most of the new work is pretty shoddy. In most cases, no innovative designers are engaged in the delivery. It is not as if the architects and planners are not involved at all. They pop up within government departments as state architects, chief planners and in numerous planning positions, so we can only assume that these professions have long since decided to say not much about the devastating outcomes of the recent developments and re-developments.

Where are the champions of good design in the 21st Century?

This matter was raised recently in the UK, whereby someone said what we needed is a Jamie Oliver of architecture. I have to admit to be not all that familiar with Jamie Oliver and whatever he did for cooking.

However I totally agree with the sentiment. Some champions of good design for the built environment are urgently required to come forward and to take a stand for good design relevant to the 21st Century, including dealing with the complexities of climate change adaptation in the urban environments.

Achieving sustainable settlements is about good design delivering resilient, engaging and healthy settlements. Right now we urgently need a champion or two or three to drive changes and no longer accept what we presently accept as normal. We have had enough of crap buildings and reduced landscape values for now please! We have been bought off by the green wash and the spin and as a result have been delivered housing that will be a danger to human health in the longer term.


Here’s the article from the UK: click here.


Paul Costigan, 4 February 2014



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