This motley crew of place-makers will only succeed when they share a common vision

If you’re making a new place, you have to have some idea of where you’re heading. Lots of professionals get involved and they’re all supposed to work to some sort of joined-up vision.

The trouble is, each professional often has his or her own notion of where they’re heading. (And I don’t apologise for the caricatures that follow, they don’t apply to everyone.)

Architects like their own kind of buildings. Landscape architects want lots of green stuff. Highway engineers want to make sure anyone out and about is not at risk from anything anywhere. Ecologists like dormice, newts and muddy swales. Planners like everything neatly in place. Environmentalists want everyone to give up on cars. Above all, most developers just want to build fast and get out quick with a fat wallet.

Each profession tries to carve out its own territory and it often comes together badly.

Some of these professionals call themselves ”urban designers”. There’s no legal protection on this title. Then they can call themselves “master planners”. Sexism aside (I’m not sure ”mistress planners” sounds good), this presumes they’re the “master” of the design process. These are usually architects, landscape architects or planners puffing themselves up.

If architects are the “master”, they probably want to make sure there are fashionable buildings. Landscape architect ”masters” might just let you fit buildings into their green and pleasant places. Planner “masters” want to make sure the boxes are ticked.

Other professions don’t bother with titles as they know they’re in charge anyway. Highways engineers work to rules and only care about saving lives from all the maniac drivers out there. Ecologists have got the law and bats behind them. Environmentalists have got Greta Thunberg on their side and after all they’re saving the planet.

So how do these people come together? Too often they don’t.

The trouble is, they all come from different places. Architects and landscape architects are trained like artists. Planners are taught to be bureaucrats. Highways engineers and environmentalists are number-crunchers. Ecologists are hiking-boot biologists. And developers are business executives.

Try telling some architects that it doesn’t matter what buildings look like nearly as much …


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