Last edited 22 Jun 2016

Our future in place, The Farrell Review of Architecture + the Built Environment (FAR)

Our future in place, The Farrell Review of Architecture + the Built Environment (FAR) was commissioned by Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in January 2013.

Undertaken by the architect, Sir Terry Farrell, with advice from a panel of 11 industry leaders, it was intended to be ‘a broad and independent review of our collective efforts to plan and design our future built environment’. Rather surprisingly, it was primarily funded Terry Farrell’s architectural practice Farrells. It is available to download from the Farrell Review website.

Farrell Review front cover.jpg

The review was published following a consultation process involving panel meetings, workshops, themed sessions, an online call for evidence and meetings with government, politicians and professional institutes.

It follows in the footsteps of a number of previous reports, most notably Richard Rogers’ seminal Urban Task Force report ‘Towards an Urban Renaissance’ published in 1999. However, Farrell suggests that Rogers’ remit ‘…was focused more specifically on town centres and urban regeneration. It also differed in that its primary role was to help the policy formulation of a government taking office….’

In his foreword, Ed Vaizey suggests that five themes run through the Farrell Review:

  • Greater understanding of place-based planning and design.
  • Better connectedness between institutional stakeholders and the public.
  • Better public engagement through education and outreach.
  • A sustainable and low-carbon future.
  • A commitment to improving the everyday built environment and making the ordinary better.

In fact the report describes its themes as:

34 conclusions are drawn within these themes and set out in the executive summary to the review:

Education, outreach and skills

  • 1A.1 The way we shape our physical environment should be taught as early as possible in schools.
  • 1A.2 Training, new content and online resources should be provided for teachers and for volunteers from within the industry.
  • 1B.1 Towns and cities that do not have an architecture and built environment centre should have an ‘urban room’ allowing their past, present and future to be inspected.
  • 1B.2 Built environment practices should become more involved in helping to shape villages, towns and cities through education and outreach.
  • 1B.3 People who make decisions about the built environment should be empowered by training in design literacy.
  • 1C.1 Courses should prepare for broader decision making, cross-disciplinary understanding, with a common foundation year followed by alternative pathways.
  • 1C.2 Seven-year, ‘one size fits all’ training is no longer appropriate. A diverse range of different courses is needed including apprenticeships and sandwich courses.
  • 1C.3 The Architects Act should be amended to make the RIBA the architects' registration body.

Design quality

  • 2A.1 Proactive planning should be used to free up local authority planners to develop masterplans and design codes.
  • 2A.2 Planners should decide more in advance of receiving specific applications.
  • 2A.3 PLACE reviews (Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Conservation and Engineering) should become part of our everyday culture.
  • 2A.4 PLACE reviews should be extended to existing developments.
  • 2A.5 The private and public sector should work together.
  • 2B.1 The role of the public realm in placemaking should be strengthened.
  • 2B.2 Decision-making panels for major infrastructure reviews should include representation from design and planning professionals.
  • 2B.3 Government should promote the value of design quality when procuring buildings.
  • 2B.4 Industry leaders should engage and empower the public through education and outreach and should contribute more to the debate.

Cultural heritage

  • 3A.1 English Heritage and the Design Council CABE should speak with one voice.
  • 3A.2 The process for listing buildings should be less academic and more open, transparent and democratic.
  • 3B.1 What we build today should be sustainable, resilient and should stand the test of time.
  • 3B.2 The government should address the disproportionate VAT on retrofit and redistribute it to new build if necessary.

Economic benefits

  • 4A.1 We should do more to promote our built environment professions globally.
  • 4A.2 Building design should be recognised as closely connected to manufacturing in order to acknowledge its export value.
  • 4A.3 PLACE institutions and built environment agencies should promote their successful methods overseas.
  • 4A.4 There should be an International Festival of Architecture.
  • 4B.1 Government and the industry should show leadership on sustainability and the proactive planning that is required as a result of climate change.
  • 4B.2 We should maximise the economic benefits of our cultural heritage.
  • 4B.3 Government should support long-term value and industry institutes should establish standards for defining, measuring and valuing quality.
  • 4B.4 Business and finance should be taught as standard within architecture schools.

Built environment policy

  • 5A.1 PLACE policies should be led by the industry.
  • 5A.2 There should be a new PLACE Leadership Council (PLC).
  • 5A.3 There should be a Chief Architect.
  • 5B.1 Government should adopt policies within and for each of the departments that have the built environment within their portfolio to achieve consistency.
  • 5B.2 The PLACE Leadership Council should advise and help co-ordinate policies and programmes across government.

These conclusions are accompanied by a set of 60 detailed recommendations in the full report. Recommendations include:

The review suggests that this report is just the beginning of a process of dialogue within the industry. Farrell states that they will continue to campaign to for better places throughout the UK and beyond and that they will examine party manifestos for the upcoming general election to see whether the review’s recommendations are being taken up. They will continue to update the Farrell Review website.

Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) president Cath Ranson said the RTPI '... particularly values the Farrell Review’s recognition of the need to properly fund planning and the call for genuine joined up working across government departments...' ref RTPI, RTPI welcomes Farrell Review recommendations 31 March 2014.

The report was also welcomed by the Royal Institute of British Architects (ref RIBA), saying '...Government must not allow the report to gather dust on the shelf – they need to take responsibility for implementing it in partnership with industry'

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