The Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning has introduced, this semester, a new postgraduate/professional subject that addresses the contentious relationship between design and planning, particularly at the residential development level. Architects are often frustrated by planning officers who fail to understand their designs, while planners find architectural jargon and thinking incomprehensible, or even intimidating, and find themselves ill-prepared to make objective design assessments.
The new subject, Design Assessment Skills, is intended for professionals responsible for the future of Victoria’s cities and towns – urban planners, architects, landscape architects, heritage advisers, conservation professionals and planning lawyers.
The subject is coordinated by Mario Gutjahr, senior lecturer in urban design and urban history, Head of the Urban Planning program in the Faculty from 1995 to 2004, and Robyn Pollock, architect and urban design consultant, with a broad experience in academic and professional work. They are assisted by prominent members of the architectural and planning professions, and members of VCAT, who present and discuss case studies to illustrate the major issues of design assessment.
Planners will be provided with tools to assist in informing and making decisions on planning applications, urban designers with the knowledge of how frameworks inform the design decision making process and architects, landscape architects or designers with creating the elements that fulfil these objectives. All built environment professionals will gain an understanding of the process of creating/designing the built urban environment (including ecological sustainability) in Melbourne.
The key topics covered during the semester include:
- interpreting visions and objectives for specific sites
- prioritising and interpreting the State policy controls and guidelines
- critically articulating preferred design outcomes [language]
- recognising the desired high quality urban environment outcome [visual]
- identifying tools to assess design responses and ensure implementation
- applying discretionary power within the Victorian planning framework.
The semester is structured into three key phases of understanding how to successfully assess design:
Weeks 1-4 Design Skills: understanding basic principles of design, the appropriate language and developing effective visual recognition skills. Key skills gained will be comprehending drawings, context analysis and building assessment.
Translation: Interpreting and prioritising the full range of local and State controls and guidelines. The focus is on review of the likely issues to arise within Melbourne, predominantly residential exemplars. Key skills gained will be in assessing designs.
Articulation: testing the design and translation skills in real life local situations. This focuses on the refining of communication techniques required to inform design outcomes. Key skills gained will be in undertaking structured and rational negotiation regarding design outcomes.
The course has three contact hours of lectures/seminars per week for one semester, and is open to all postgraduate applicants working in built environment fields (including postgraduate students). All applicants should have some practical experience, particularly in the Victorian planning system. Design Assessment Skills can be taken as a single subject, through the Community Access Program (CAP). A second, related subject, Design Implementation, is being considered for introduction by the Faculty.