Design Quality Evaluation

We regularly conduct studies and publish outputs on the issue of design quality and evaluation.

A horizontal shot of Back Bay neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, with a cloudy white sky above.

This includes research projects on the subjects of:

  • development management;
  • design review;
  • urban design;
  • architectural principles and qualities.

In the UK, architectural and urban design is regulated through a system of design control for the public interest, which aims to secure and promote 'quality' in the built environment.

The history of design control is lengthy and complex, with the concept of 'design' offering a range of challenges for a regulatory system of governance.

A simultaneously creative and emotive discipline, design is a difficult thing to regulate objectively or consistently, often leading to policy that is regarded as highly discretionary and flexible.

This makes regulatory outcomes difficult to predict, as approaches undertaken by the agents of this control system can vary not only from place to place but also from agent to agent.

The role of the design controller is therefore central, tasked as they are with the responsibility of:

  • interpreting design policy and guidance;
  • appraising design quality;
  • passing professional judgement.

While the suite of instruments in place to control design is well recognised and utilised across the UK, what has generated less discussion is how design controllers perceive and operationalise these instruments in practice.

This fuels a lack of transparency that 'veils' the basis of decisions and outcomes in this contested system.

Our research seeks to engage at the interface of this 'veil', exploring the perceptions and attitudes of key stakeholders to better understand the system and how design quality is articulated and critically evaluated.