Design Review

To some observers, the truly creative activity in the design process lies neither in the design of the programme nor that of the building or complex but rather in the evaluation of possible schemes. Recognizing and selecting good designs, especially departures from the norm is a highly risky business and there are many examples of award-winning schemes that have turned out to be failures in terms of people's lives. The evaluation of designs involves:

1 predicting the future context in which the scheme will function aesthetically and behaviourally;

2 predicting how the scheme will work in that future;

3 evaluating its performance against other possible schemes.

The future is, however, unknown although we can make reasonable predictions based upon sound information about trends in society. Should, however, one 'play safe' or 'go for broke'?

In some places the process of design review is carried out purely subjectively and in others an open-to-view system of scoring is used. In the latter case the goals are weighted, recognizing that some goals are more important than others. Each aspect of design is evaluated numerically based on experts' opinions in terms of the stated goals for a development site. The process may be highly transparent but it has received considerable criticism because of the subjectivity of the evaluation on each of the dimensions of a design. The openness does, however, present a developer with an understanding of the logic of the review process and what is purported to be in the public interest and what is not.

The Battery Park City Planning Authority received 27 proposals from property developers for the building of Rector Place in Battery Park City, New York (see Chapter 8). The question was: 'How should each possibility be evaluated?' Some variables such as financial return to the city in terms of tax revenue can be assessed with reasonable accuracy. Other dimensions of design such as 'fitness to

Figure 2.9 Potential projects evaluation scorecard, Bethesda, Maryland.

context' or 'urbane character' are not. They can, however, be defined operationally in a set of design guidelines as they were for Rector Place. Whether one agrees with the definition explicated in the guidelines or not, a building design can be objectively assessed by a review panel against the guidelines' demands. When the criteria are less sharply defined a scorecard such as that used in Bethesda, Maryland for projects forming part of the MetroCenter complex at least displays the design reviewers' thinking (see Figure 2.9).

In many planning jurisdictions around the world design policies and controls are poorly articulated or miss important issues. As a result, the review of development proposals and of designs is opaque. The clearer the design policies and guidelines, the more logically the choice of the best scheme can be made from amongst the possibilities available. The guidelines need to be based on evidence that they meet required ends in order to withstand challenges in the courts (Stamps, 1994).

The power that design review boards have in enforcing design guidelines and other design controls varies. At one extreme they have absolute veto power; at the other end they can merely make suggestions. In jurisdictions where there is a demand for development the coercive powers of design review boards are potentially more substantial than in places crying out for anybody to develop anything. In capitalist societies where the developer is a private company contracting out work to other property developers or selling off land to be developed by others, the power of the company's review panel may well be absolute. In the new town of Las Colinas outside Dallas in Texas, for example, the Las Colinas Association is a quasi-governmental group responsible for overseeing the quality of all the work done in the new town. It had a veto power over proposals as did the panel supervising the development of the Denver Technological Center (see Chapter 8).

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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