Design leaves a lasting impact on the appearance of cities, shaping cities 50 or even 100 years into the future.
Municipalities use many different methods to guide and shape development design, from zoning to secondary plans and urban design guidelines.
To further promote design excellence in the public realm, Urban Design Commissions — or Design Review Commissions in some jurisdictions — have been established in many municipalities across Canada.
What are Urban Design Panels?
Urban Design Committees are an independent advisory board of design professionals who provide peer-to-peer advice to the architect and landscape architects of a project and the city.
Urban design committees are part of the development approval process. However, the criteria for taking an exam differ from city to city.
In some municipalities, all major large-scale projects are submitted to a planning commission. For other municipalities, only developments in certain neighborhoods require one.
In Toronto, a design review process is required for all public-initiated projects with significant visual and physical impacts on the public realm, all site plan applications and large-scale rezoning in districts design review, and all requests having significant impacts on the public realm located along the avenues. , main streets and priority surface transit corridors.
Panels do not accept or reject applications or change policies. Instead, urban design signs encourage design excellence for things that impact the public:
– signage and accessibility for a barrier-free public domain;
– ground floor and facade design for lively pedestrian spaces; and
– build articulation to support well-designed communities.
Why have urban design panels?
There is a feeling that urban design signs are just another way for cities to delay the development process and add unnecessary bureaucracy.
While it is indeed valuable to make the development process smoother and more efficient, urban design panels have the potential to have a huge impact on a building and, therefore, the city. This potential makes Urban Design Panels a critical step in the development process.
As an independent advisory body of professionals, Urban Design Committees provide professional and objective advice on design issues that affect the public realm.
Incorporating urban design committees into the process can raise development standards, encourage design excellence and improve project quality. These benefits make the process beneficial to both the proponent and the public.
Urban design signs can also be used to achieve set goals. The City of Brampton’s Urban Design Review Committee is mandated to provide sound advice to create well-designed communities that foster a sense of place.
Some organizations have also set up urban design committees to achieve desired design results. The Waterfront Toronto and the Toronto Community Housing Corp. are such organizations.
The Waterfront Toronto Urban Design Committee ensures a cohesive approach to waterfront revitalization and improved environmental performance for public and private developments on the waterfront.
On the other hand, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s Urban Design Committee reviews design to ensure revitalization initiatives are functional, improve the physical environment for residents, and create market value while fostering inclusive communities.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Your Next Urban Design Panel
Having been a member of the City of Burlington’s Urban Design Committee from 2017-2019 and having presented many of my own smart density projects to urban design committees in the Greater Toronto Area, I have seen dozens of applications and of presentations.
Here are 10 do’s and don’ts for your next urban design panel:
1: Create a clear presentation and focus on design logic. It is not necessary to submit the complete architectural ensemble or the planning justification. Instead, focus on design principles the panel needs to know and be excited about.
2: Introduce the design process. Tell the panel the considerations taken: What were the trade-offs? What’s been tried but didn’t work? This will make feedback more convenient and beneficial.
3: Make it professional. An urban planning jury is made up of professionals. The use of professional language is recommended.
4: Be brief and precise. There are only 10 to 15 minutes to present. It is essential to use time wisely and focus on the design. There is no need to talk about the company or past developments.
5: Counter-arguments are not necessary. An urban design committee is a peer review. Unless there is a misunderstanding, do not argue or try to convince the panel otherwise. Agreeing to disagree is perfectly acceptable.
6: Ask leading questions. Direct the discussion to the desired comments.
seven: Complete the design review process early enough in the process. Have a design review in the early stages so feedback can be meaningful.
8: Spoon information throughout the presentation. The panelists do not know the project as well as you or the municipal staff.
9: Remember that an urban design committee is an advisory board. The council is there to advise the architect and the landscaper of the project and the city; not to make decisions.
ten: Finally, a review by an urban design committee is a remarkable opportunity. Leading architects, urban planners and landscape architects sit on these panels. Take advantage of having so many great minds in one room for one purpose: advising on your new project.