Sir Terry Farrell kicked off his review of architecture and the built environment at the NLA this morning with a promise that it will be as wide in scope as possible and look to the best exemplars from across the world.
Farrell, who set out some of the parameters of the review, flanked by fellow panel members Victoria Thornton of Open-City, Bartlett professor Peter Bishop and Urban and Civic’s Nigel Hughill, said that he will write the review himself and that today was the ‘starting point in a process of listening’. The report – which will be presented to culture minister Ed Vaizey in December this year, will be accompanied by a book and a website with which to ‘give outreach and a manifesto or set of themes’.
The review will investigate its core subject along a series of themes, including education, cultural heritage, the economic benefits of promoting good architecture and understanding government’s role in promoting design quality. It is likely that the review panel will investigate these themes in three meetings, including one proposed for after the report’s publication.
Peter Bishop said that ‘an awful lot of what we’ve inherited isn’t particularly good’, and that while any generation can produce iconic buildings, the goal must be that day-to-day work of the review is in making ‘the ordinary better’. Nigel Hughill said that he felt that the success of the review will stand or fall in how much we can get government to promote good architecture. And he added that, although we often hear of the significance of German engineering, we hear less about the global reach of UK architecture, a situation which needed rectifying.
This was particularly important with the world now being a changed place, said Farrell, and with this century being the century of city-making, especially in China. Happily, said Victoria Thornton, the Coalition is recognising the fact that architecture is part of the economy, even if barriers to education in architecture are considerable, not least in the expense involved in taking a seven-year course. In some instances in UK institutions, said Farrell, British students are disappearing, and access is becoming only for the rich.
The NLA event included a question-and-answer session including other members of the advisory panel Jim Eyre, Allison Brooks and Beam creative director Robert Powell. Questions ranged from the need to have a good gender balance, to recognising that other professions besides architects design the built environment, to the language that is used in describing architecture, to sustainability and the need to carefully consider when the report is published with reference to the political timetable.
David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly