The Farrell review, a report into the future of architecture and the built environment, has recommended creating a new role of chief architect, ensuring a consistency of approach across government departments.
The British architect behind projects such as London’s MI6 HQ and the vast Beijing South railway station, suggests that architecture should be made a part of children's’ education in school. He also recommends that every town and city should have an “urban room”, where locals would be encouraged to understand and discuss the physical structure of their communities.
Ed Vaizey, culture minister, commissioned the review, describing it as “the most wide-ranging exercise that has taken place in the sector for several generations”.
Sir Terry said: “We have some of the best architects in the world, yet it is hard to see how this translates into the everyday experience in our towns and cities. Industry leaders and built environment professionals should connect to the everyday much more and focus on making the ordinary better, not just one-off exceptional projects.”
The recommendations are likely to be well-received by the profession but their take-up in government and support in the building industry is less certain.
They seek to answer some of the questions perennially raised about the status of planning in particular.
Architect Sir David Chipperfield, told the Financial Times last week that “the problem is that we have de-professionalised the planning process . . . Planners have become the traffic wardens of development, and they shouldn’t be”.
Sir Terry’s report called for wide-ranging reviews of existing places, including high streets, mega hospitals, housing estates and major infrastructure projects including rail and road improvements and aviation. The review also suggested that planners should receive basic training in design literacy and placemaking – though it still seems astonishing that this is not already the case.
Released a day after a call from architects, artists and critics to establish a “skyline commission” to police the burgeoning towers that are radically altering the capital’s horizons, it seems the report will hit a nerve addressing the wider anxiety that the UK is losing control of the planning process and the appearance of its cities.
In the terms of exporting British architecture abroad, it is suggested that UK Trade and Investment should represent the built environment professions as a single industry. In a keenly directed barb at the poor design quality of much recent private finance initiative construction, the report said the Treasury Green Book should be updated to mandate that design quality, and sustainability should be taken into account when measuring the value of public spending.
The report also suggested reducing the rate for value added tax on renovation and repair to 5 per cent, in an effort to encourage retrofitting rather than demolition and rebuilding.
Sir Terry – born and raised in the north and with working-class roots – wrote: “We risk becoming an elitist profession and, at the same time, losing our world-ranking status if we do not radically overhaul architectural training and open it up to a wider range of people.”
He also wants more protection given to the title of “architect” – which is currently easily circumvented with terms such as “architectural designer” or “architectural services”.