This writer has finally return from the wilds of New England to a, strangely, much warmer Chicago. An oh is there much to catch up on, so let’s get right into it. First things first, following our post about the reaction to Prince Charles‘ Foundation for the Built Environment stepping in to offer their services in place of the now defunct government agency, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (which was dismantled as part of the UK’s sweeping cuts to try getting their finances in check), the Prince’s organization was kind enough to get in touch with a statement from their side, attempting to get the story in check and put their side out there (they also sent letters out to places like the The Guardian). We publish here, in full, the statement by the organization’s chief executive, Hank Dittmar:
“The coalition government has had to take some difficult choices in the past weeks, and one of these was to cut DCMS funding to the Commission on Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE). CABE is the successor body to the Royal Fine Arts Commission, and identifies itself as the government’s design adviser. It is important that design quality not slip in the wake of this decision. While CABE’s Chair Paul Finch and Chief Executive Richard Simmons have been bullish about the body’s continuing role, the removal of a large chunk of its funding does provoke some thought about ways to deliver its primary function of design review.”
More after the jump…
“Quality design has always been CABE’s mantra, and this is a very local and variable subject. What’s appropriate for East Croydon might not be appropriate for Ealing or Norwich, and the notion of a body ordained by central government to arbitrate design quality may not be the only way to maintain and improve the quality of design and building. Might there not be a marketplace of ideas as well as one of goods, and might not a plural world countenance a plurality of ideas about urbanism and architecture provided by multiple organisations?
“The Prince’s Foundation is investigating the feasibility of offering design review services to local authorities and developers with the help of a network of architects and other designers. Such a service could be provided on a fee for service basis and might introduce the element of competition and choice into the design review process. We’d look to recruit a balanced group, but unlike others, wouldn’t rule out traditional architecture and urbanism. The Foundation’s focus would be toward architecture and design in service of walkable, mixed use neighbourhoods, linked by streets and squares and parks. A design review panel formed by The Foundation would be slanted in favour of buildings and communities for people rather than for designers, and a design process that involves communities. If other organizations — including CABE — similarly stepped into this niche, it might allow local authorities to choose services that best fit local needs, rather than having design quality and style mediated by an organisation funded by central government.
“In an era of both localism and austerity, eliminating barriers to entry and design review from multiple sources might be a positive step forward, bringing costs down and loosening the grip of an architecture elite on planning and design decisions.”