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Farrell is just the beginning

Stephen Hodder

Now the Farrell Review is published we must move on from campaigns to action

Terry Farrell’s review of architecture and the built environment could not have come at a better time. We have gone through a period of rapid change in built environment policy, from planning changes to housing to an increased focus on sustainability. It’s time to take stock of where we have got to and to provide a steer to help bring about a cultural shift in the way we think about and shape the future of our villages, towns and cities.

There is growing acknowledgement of the importance of architecture and this is reflected in greater public awareness of and interest in the impact that poor buildings and environments can have on our everyday lives. Yet there is still so much poor quality architecture we must ask why this happens.

The RIBA contributed extensively to this process so we are pleased that the review has reflected many of our recommendations.

We championed the need to focus on a more co-ordinated and consistent approach to design across government and the need for stronger leadership from decision-makers. This has been sorely lacking for many years. 

The review’s focus on changing the dynamic within the planning system is right. The planning system is unnecessarily adversarial, too reactive and often fails to provide the vision required to set out a clear plan for the future of places. Much has been done by the current government in shaping the National Planning Policy Framework with that objective. To achieve the culture change needed will require a significant shift and expansion in resources within planning departments. If we believe that planning can play a positive role in delivering great places and setting strong expectations on quality, then we have to start resourcing it properly. 

The focus on PLACE is important and ­reflects much of the thinking over the last decade and beyond. Creating great architecture and successful places is fundamental. Too much poor quality architecture comes about from both a lack of focus on how to create successful places and a failure of professional teams to work together enough.

An understanding of architecture needs to start at school age and more should be done to properly integrate architecture into the curriculum. It is important too that architects and other professionals engage more with the public on architecture and in what is happening in their town or city.
For the profession, the review reflects much of our thinking on architectural education to improve greater access and more interdisciplinary understanding.

The RIBA will examine this report in detail to look at where we can help shape change together with the Farrell team and other partners. This is the opportunity for government to step up to the plate. It does need to commit to changes of policy and practice to enable some of the aspirations of this review to happen. I don’t believe it is enough to say that the industry should continue to campaign – this is what the production of the review should do. We will continue to work with the government to advance many of the issues. A government commitment to an architecture policy with a senior cross-government champion to make it happen would demonstrate a significant challenge to the industry that it will champion the thing we hold most dear – good architecture. 


The government is conducting a review of the Architect’s Registration Board to understand if protection of title should remain and if so whether Arb is effective and value for money. RIBA Council has made clear that the RIBA supports protection of title in the interests of the consumer and would wish for Arb to be retained, but for areas of overlap and duplication to be removed. The RIBA is working with the government to shape the outcome of the review.