It was a risk, but one worth taking. We were interested in casting the net wide for new ways to promote and reinforce the value of good design and raise design quality standards here in Victoria. The invitation went out to all our guests and much to our delight nearly all accepted and participated in a full day of open exchange and creative conversations.
It seemed to us that the NSW experience had much to teach us in Victoria. Since 2002, SEPP65 has mandated that architects design residential flat developments of more than four flats and/or three storeys and more and, through its Design Code, ensured measurable design and environmental outcomes. The SEPP also sets out the terms of reference for establishing Design Review Panels to provide expert advice to local Councils on the design merits of residential flat developments being assessed for development approvals.
Design knowledge and expertise
The policy is important in that it reinforces and formalises the importance of design knowledge and expertise to support improved amenity and good design outcomes in residential flat developments. This policy was developed in direct response to the poor base quality of design in apartments being built at the time, and to other current issues in Sydney including rapid growth, urban sprawl, and changes in societal perceptions regarding denser living which established the need for well designed developments and high standards of amenity.
Clearly, these issues also impact on us in Melbourne. Concern around global economic instability adds another overlay to the current urban landscape and presents us with a unique opportunity to ensure that the quality and sustainability of the built environment is seen as an integral part of the strategies formulated to stimulate economic growth and development in Victoria.
In casting the net wide, the OVGA has also been inspired by the work of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) in England which has, for some years produced and published an exceptional range of research and tools on design and runs a successful design review service. Scotland has followed suit with the release of its far reaching Architecture Policy in 2007 and the establishment of Architecture and Design Scotland as an independent resource to direct the Policy and advise on design for government.
We have had extremely positive feedback from attendees about the workshop – it seems that further cross-border conversations and exchanges are inevitable. Nobody is about to take Melbourne’s “global reputation for design excellence in the built environment” for granted. Maintaining and enhancing this position and safeguarding the quality of life in our towns and cities in the face of economic instability will be a serious test.