The movement to promote good urban design took a step forward last week with the launch of a guide to best practice.
The Urban Design Compendium,* compiled by multidisciplinary consultancy Llewelyn-Davies and published by the Housing Corporation and regeneration body English Partnerships, was unveiled at London’s Tate Modern art gallery on Thursday.
Lord Rogers, who chaired the government’s urban taskforce and has become the figurehead of urban renaissance, gave the keynote address at the launch. He praised the compendium for outlining a coherent policy on regeneration that takes into consideration the built environment and the need for well-managed public areas.
He said: “I couldn’t believe the number of potholes in Westminster and the state of the vegetation. It is not a question of it being a poor borough but of consciousness of design. Many think architecture is an add-on, like putting lipstick on a gorilla. But architecture is the name of the game.”
The design guide comprises case studies from around the world showing urban design at its best. It gives practical advice on mixed-use development, public transport and consultation with the community, as well as managing public spaces.
English Partnerships will promote the compendium to all parties on its projects. Chief executive Paula Hay-Plumb said that even the private developers of large-scale commercial projects will be asked to adopt the values of the guide.
“We have partners in regeneration for building commercial and residential spaces. When I say my team will buy these principles, that means all the partners will be made aware. There is no point saying we believe in this and then leaving it on a shelf,” said Hay-Plumb.
The Housing Corporation will also promote the guide’s use. Acting chief executive Simon Dow said that all housing associations bidding for grants will have to prove they are incorporating the values in the compendium and Lord Rogers’ urban taskforce report.
“Not all social housing has been well-designed, so for the corporation to take its responsibility seriously, we have to engage in the urban design agenda. We want to work with associations that have a developed urban design agenda,” said Dow.
There was concern from some at the launch of the compendium that it would not be enough to encourage an urban renaissance.
Richard Saxon, chief executive of Building Design Partnership, said that because architects are no longer involved in planning, cities are planned with less design consideration.
* Available free from English Partnerships, fax 020-7976 7740. A complementary publication from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, By Design, is available by fax, 020-7839 8475.