Planning by Design
By Graham Ross MRTPI FRIAS, Austin-Smith:Lord
This blog was originally published in the RTPI Scotland journal ‘Scottish Planner’ in December 2018
To maximise design quality in our built environment society needs more, highly skilled folk capable of designing and planning buildings and places, in creative dialogue with clients, end-users and communities. The planning and design professions need to inspire people to become more confident and able to contribute effectively to shaping their place; as citizens, leaders and/or as future design and planning professionals.
Creating Places (2013) defines ‘good design’ as, ‘. . . provid(ing) value by delivering good buildings and places that enhance the quality of our lives’. Planners and designers should be valued, and deemed vital, by society by continually demonstrating how we creatively add value.
Planning by Design
To design or to plan is to conceive of something with purpose and intent. I recall, as a student, hearing a definition of urban design as being the opposite of urban accident. An accident suggests unintended consequences. Carelessness. By design speaks of creating something with intentional care and quality; as planned.
Architecture + Design Scotland’s publication ‘A Vision of Health’ proposes that ‘design is the intelligent allocation of a scarce resource’, not simply visual embellishment. Design, and design-thinking, are powerful tools that when applied effectively can resolve numerous issues simultaneously.
Be Valued by Adding Value
We intuitively know that good design adds value. Considered holistically good design can deliver added environmental, social, economic, cultural, health, financial and functional value. However it can be difficult to measure and evidence.
Value of Design in the Built Environment (2014) research published by the Scottish Government, to which I was a contributing author, found that well-designed buildings and places are currently ‘valued’ within the built environment sector in Scotland in a wide variety of ways that are not consistent, transparent or comparable.
It found that design as a process (design-thinking) plays a fundamental and positive role in the different stages of development in the built environment. It is a vital element in decision-making at the critical early stages and as projects progress through problem finding and framing, ideation and solution generating, creative and visual thinking, prototyping, testing, implementing and evaluating.
The design and planning professions are undervalued. Planning is under-resourced by public authorities. The likelihood of delivering design quality is often diminished by ill-conceived procurement processes. We need to continually seek to be smarter in how we bring the right people together, at the right time, to enhance the probability of positive design outcomes. Intelligent planning and commissioning make better design outcomes more probable.
Planning and Designing Together
We need to dissolve silo-thinking and overcome learned systematic misunderstandings (and suspicion) between different professions and sectors. Let’s foster an empathy and culture of knowledge sharing. Let’s embed interdisciplinary working to ensure development, planning and design practice effectively contributes to shaping our future.
We need to appreciate that design quality needn’t cost more; indeed it saves money and adds value. Designers and planners need to show leadership and celebrate the compound benefits of design quality over time. It’s time to reclaim the agenda and advocate a better way for society to benefit from the collective skills, imagination and creativity within current and future generations of designers and planners.
The full edition of the Scottish Planner Dec 2018 magazine can be viewed at this link: https://www.rtpi.org.uk/media/3138863/issue_176.pdf