Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Planners show the way ahead for good design

The London Borough of Haringey’s Design Awards show the importance of advocacy for good community design at the local level. Held at the Kera Restaurant close to Wood Green’s Chocolate Factory, where creative industry and endeavour are encouraged at the heart of regeneration, the awards show how design is key to creating an improved urban environment, but also how important innovative planning is in facilitating good design.

These are the second Design Awards held by Haringey’s planning department, and reflect an energy there to get the kind of design quality in the more peripheral London boroughs, that is more usually found in central boroughs. Haringey has also sought to do this by setting up its own Design Review Panel to scrutinise the design of planning applications and offer constructive criticism and support to the architects and developers who present their work there. The panel itself is made up of design professionals who work in the private sector or for public bodies other than Haringey Council.

Planning officers at Haringey believe that the Design Awards and the Design Review Panel have helped the borough make positive strides towards higher quality and more sustainable new development, and it is the very passion of those officers, and their willingness to innovate, that is essential in making this happen. The forums they have provided up the stakes for design, create opportunities for architects and developers to show the best of their work, and also allow additional skilled input into the iterative design process.

Is there more to be done? There’s undoubtedly a strong argument for getting people more involved in the planning of their communities. Some will never want to be involved, of course, while others will object to all new development. But other members of the community could be engaged if innovation allows them to become part of the planning and design process. Architects often fret that lay people cannot engage in design, and yet local people have been involved in the design of their communities since building began. Engaging such communities through design charrettes and discussion groups should not tie the hand of the architect or urban designer, but can engender support and understanding for the pressures that the professionals are trying to balance in any development.

See Haringey’s 2008 Design Award winners at:

Author: Lewis Eldridge

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