As the NSW Government announces a new program that preferences ‘good design’, we compare and contrast a similar initiative taken by the Victorian Government. At the end of the day, can good design be prescribed without falling into mere ‘box-ticking’?
April 6th, 2018
On Wednesday 4 April, the NSW Government announced a new initiative that puts good design front and centre. The program, titled the State Design Review Panel (SDRP) pilot program, brings together a broad mix of 40 industry professionals to give design and planning advice.
On any one project, a selection of four to five members will be assigned to review an application, depending on their specific area of expertise. The panel will work with the NSW Government Architect to review and consider key elements of the assessment process, such as local character and design excellence.
The proposed review process of this program sits in contrast to the more prescriptive approach taken by the Victorian Government’s ‘Better Apartment Design Standard‘ mandate. In Victoria, the Apartment Standards are strict in the minimum requirements for planning approval, which limits design innovation and the possibility for solutions that fall outside the dictated parameters. By leaving the rubric for assessment somewhat open, individual design merit can shine through, as opposed to mere ‘box-ticking’.
On the other side of that argument, while talking on a panel discussion about design measurability, hosted by Bates Smart, the Victorian Government Architect Jill Garner recently expressed that the Better Apartment Design Standards are there to bring the ‘shit architects’ up to scratch. And despite the prescriptive nature of the standards, it has in fact helped to improve the quality of design in the state.
When commenting on the SDRP, NSW Government Architect Peter Poulet said, “By consulting with the SDRP, both government and private sector projects will benefit from expert design advice at no cost for the period of the pilot program. This will further ensure their projects are at the forefront of community-focused design innovation.”
Although the NSW State Design Review Panel is rolling out as an initial 12-month pilot program, it will be interesting to see the outcome and if it continues after one year. And ultimately, if having an open, yet rigorous process of design consultation can improve the overall quality of projects.
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