The Council can enable Quality Design in Guildford

13 May 2021

Awarding Good Design

The Guildford Society together with Guildford Borough Council are keen to see the quality of design improved for new buildings in Guildford.  Our Design Awards which we are about to launch again in 2021, details coming shortly, are a way of encouraging and recognising good design.

Selecting Good Designers

It is vital to select good designers at the start of any major scheme.  The council through its ownership of significant sites and influence on others, has a critical role to play.

Exceptional design comes from appointing the best architects recognised for their design skill, expertise, and experience. How Architects are selected and appointed is critical; with three main methods being employed.

Firstly, architects are appointed directly by the client and work closely with the client and his project manager.  Ideally this approach is supported by the use of Architectural competitions, which are a proven method for selecting the best and most appropriate architects. This approach tends to produce the best results.

Secondly, where time is limited an alternative process of selection can be employed. This involves shortlisting a number (say 6) of architects who are recognised for their appropriate experience and track record ideally demonstrating past award-winning projects. These architects are requested to provide details of their approach, attend an interview and probably offer a fee proposal against the client’s budget.

Thirdly, another common approach is using ‘Frameworks’ which are standardised methods set up to ease the process of public sector bodies appointing consultants, contractors and suppliers. Frameworks led by contractors or large development consultancy practices or engineers, do not generally employ the most leading design focused architects. Contractor or Consultants often have long term relationships with selected Architects, often using designs that result in buildings that are simple and quick to construct and have high levels of repetition. Therefore, potentially compromising Design Quality.

Impact on Guildford

Guildford Borough Council needs to clarify how design quality is to be achieved on its own hugely important projects providing many homes for people in Guildford on high profile and highly visible sites, Bright Hill, Guildford Park Road, etc.  High Design Standards set on council sites will help inform the private developments as well.

The Society has serious concerns that the Council are using Frameworks that may constrain Guildford obtaining world class design for several important projects. The Society believes it needs to be transparent how Architects are selected as Design decisions now will have an impact on the town and borough for generations to come.

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