Urban Design Accreditation Update no.2

Hitchcock Ave_-_Barwon_Heads_Vic_AUS

Image: the home of Cadel Evans and Goyte (Wouter "Wally" De Backer) has a lovely 'high' street. A new, but understated streetscape, is contrasted by the detailing of the shopfronts. A good example of our Place Quality - Consistency & variety. Note to other towns - good urban design attracts world number ones!

Posted by: Andrew Hammonds

Wednesday 30 May, 2012

I presented to the AILA QLD breakfast forum last week on urban design - my controversial presentation titled "Why Landscape Architecture needs a name change" will be posted soon. At the start of the forum Katharina Nieberler-Walker confirmed that urban design registration is proceeding. A year ago, the National Council of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) agreed that the AILA Registration Scheme is to offer the option of AILA Registered Urban Designer. The intention is to provide their members with greater recognition and insurance options. Katharina acknowledged 'debate' about urban design and stated that AILA is committed to consultation. 

UDAL (Urban Design Alliance) QLD has been discussing registration/certification/accreditation/recognition of members for several years – with opposing views amongst board members. In summary, there is a benefit in providing clarity about expected characteristics and qualities of practitioners in urban design. However, urban design is inherently multi-disciplinary and collaborative and cannot be delivered by one person. Herein lies UDAL’s dilemma. 

UDAL needs resolution though - accreditation is on the agenda of the UDAL Board meeting next Monday.

I believe that the time has come for accreditation of urban design. Clients and customers would benefit from the "industry' clarifying the role and expected skills and training. This will support  practitioners who have invested in training, honing their skills and gaining experience. Hopefully it will overcome the debilitating debate over "What is Urban Design". Let's agree on way forward and then review it in a year or two. "Industry" is an important term here - I suggest that accreditation needs to be managed by a new National organisation which represents the range of disciplines which contribute to urban design.

Based on the "Recognised Practitioner" model from the UK's Urban Design Group, I propose the following process for discussion:

People with a suitable balance of education, skills, understanding and experience can apply to become a Recognised Practitioner in Urban Design. The distinction provides a wide range of professionals (and non professionals?) with a valued affiliation (in many cases an additional one), proclaiming their commitment to - and experience of - urban design.

Being a Recognised Practitioner can give those working in urban design a sense of identity; greater influence on professional practice and public policy; and a stronger sense of common purpose. Recognised Practitioners are professionals with a wide range of skills and experience of designing in an urban context. Many of the new generation of professionals have more than one affiliation and expect - and are required - to develop new skills and areas of expertise throughout their career.

It is expected that Recognised Practitioners will come from a diverse range of backgrounds (not just design) including:

  • Architecture;
  • Landscape Architecture;
  • Planning;
  • Transport and Civil Engineering; 
  • Surveying;
  • Project Management;
  • and other professions.

I talk about the difference between urban design and urban designer? in Urban Design and Placemaking 101

The core of the Urban Design Group's Recognised Practitioner assessment is the Capacitycheck system, which enables people from a wide range of different backgrounds and roles to be considered, including practitioners involved in policy formulation, research or academia.

I do not suggest a new National organisation to represent urban design lightly. We need to weigh the benefits against the costs. And as Tim Horton suggested recently, it dosen't need to be based on the UDAL model.  The potential of this organisation includes (thanks to the UDG again):

  • Improving the professional status of urban design and urban designers.
  • Giving urban design an effective voice in government and the professions.
  • Promoting collaboration within the urban design process and between the professions.
  • Raising standards in urban design practice.
  • Developing a network of urban designers both nationally and internationally
  • Showing decision-makers the value of good urban design.

Based on my experience with UDAL since it's inception on the 18 May 2000 it is time! What’s your view on urban design accreditation?

Tag: accreditation, AILA, UDAL
Placefocus links: Placemaking 101 (urban design leadership)Place Roles (urban design team)Place Links (institutes)

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