Is building beautiful the new benchmark?

Set up at the end of 2018, the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’ has released its report in January 2020 covering their research and proposals for the future. Amongst many other things, the report looks at how beautiful buildings and developments promote healthy and happy lives, suggesting that ugly developments result in unadaptable, unhealthy and unsightly buildings which they believe comes at a social cost to all who live there. Wishing to create greener urban areas, more consideration for the long-term view and neighbourhoods and communities, not just houses, their eight priorities for reform are:

  1. Planning: create a predictable level playing field 
  2. Communities: bring the democracy forward 
  3. Stewardship: incentivise responsibility to the future 
  4. Regeneration: end the scandal of left behind place 
  5. Neighbourhoods: create places not just houses 
  6. Nature: re-green our towns and cities  
  7. Education: promote a wider understanding of placemaking 
  8. Management: value planning, count happiness, procure properly 

Looking at beauty in three scales:

  • Beautiful buildings
  • Beautiful places
  • Beautifully placed

New developments should be an improvement and be more beautiful than the area they replaced. The report acknowledges how the increase in cars has impacted developments and the way that people live. In the past, areas were designed with walking in mind as access to transport was so much more limited. It therefore proposes we should rethink the way we design developments. Touching on the change in use of materials over the years, the report recognises that modern materials must be used to meet building regulations and considers how they can be best used to create beautiful buildings. One of the thought processes of the Commission is that mixed-use areas have a better chance of creating communities, with less reliance on the car, people can live together, visit the same shops and facilities and are more likely to get to know each other. There needs to be consideration for affordability and respect for nature and heritage. Find out what the Commission’s proposals are and what they have achieved so far here.