The Cultural Value of Architecture: A critical review with specific reference to UK homes and neighbourhoods

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Architectural Studies

Abstract

Our proposal is to create for the first time a critical review of the existing research on the cultural value of architecture in the UK focusing on the architecture of the home and of the neighbourhood. 'Architecture' is not limited here to the activities of those with Royal Institute of British Architects chartered status. We refer here to architecture as 'design research' or 'research practice' characterised by the rigorous use of such methods as mapping, consultation, visioning, design, masterplanning and building.

Whilst there is much evidence for value of architectural input in hospitals and schools, the value of architectural input in homes and neighbourhoods remains unclear partly because of the difficulty in setting up controlled test environments in these contexts. Other methods for establishing value need to be developed with some urgency as the architecture of home and neighbourbood has a key role to play in addressing important societal challenges such as the ageing population and energy use.

The critical review will provide a framework for evaluating architecture in homes and neighbourhoods that will help policy makers and practitioners to steer the future of the profession. It will focus on three interconnected components or aspects of value:

1. Wellbeing
2. Neighbourhood Cohesion
3. Identity Belonging and Heritage

As we are concerned with the aspects of architecture that cut across socio economic categories we will focus on ways of promoting wellbeing to groups rather than individuals.

An important strength of this project is the Advisory Group, including key figures from both industry and academia informing our debate with knowledge from a wide spectrum of viewpoints. The project is supported by the Royal Institute of British Architects and will provide evidence for their review The Value and Impact of Architecture.

Sitting controversially within the portfolio of the Culture and Creative Industries Ministry the value of Architecture is currently subject to debate. Indeed the government has recently appointed Sir Terry Farrell to lead a study on public policy, design and the built environment. This critical review will be used, via a briefing paper, as evidence in Sir Farrell's enquiry, in this way influencing policy on the development of the profession.

Architecture's inability to evidence its own value can in part be put down to a lack of formal Research and Development culture within the profession. The critical review will influence architectural practice by evidencing and promoting the value of architecture. Initially in the form of a database the critical review will provide the foundation for a series of publication, most notably the Cultural Value of Architecture Report aimed at architects, clients and policy makers. It will draw together other reviews of this subject and provide an important benchmark for future research practice in the area of home and neighbourhood.

The critical review will have an important impact on the development of architectural research methodologies which have remained hidden up until now, largely because practitioners rarely articulate what they do in terms of research. Architecture is not just about building, architects are adept at articulating and developing design proposals based on the spatial configuration and visualisation of complex sets of information (quantitative and qualitative). The project will give greater exposure to the methodologies of architecture through the wider Cultural Value project. It will also provide opportunities for the development of new blended methodologies developed through interdisciplinary interaction.

Planned Impact

If it can be shown conclusively that by improving the quality of the environment in homes and communities we can improve wellbeing the impact could be wide reaching in scope and would have the potential to improve the quality of our built environment. In writing the project we have identified four different audiences for our research: policy makers, practitioners, the wider public as well as the academic audience discussed above.

1. Policy Makers

The future of architecture is currently subject to much debate in the UK. The critical review will contribute to two specific enquiries. The government has recently appointed Sir Terry Farrell to lead a study on public policy, design and the built environment. Sir Farrell's office is supportive of our application as they understand that the critical review will provide importance evidence for the enquiry which will be taking place over the coming year. The critical review therefore has the potential for very wide impact on the built environment.

The critical review will also contribute to the Royal Institute of British Architect's report The Value and Impact of Architecture prepared in response to the RIBA strategic plan, Leading Architecture 2012 - 16 due to be delivered at the end of 2014. Our findings are therefore likely to influence the future direction of the profession.

2. Practice

Early indicators from the RIBA Study of Information Practices in the Built Environment Sector (of which the PI is a member) suggest that although architectural practitioners are aware that peer reviewed academic research is the most rigorous information available it is the information that they are least likely to use. The review report will provide a framework of cultural value that brings together and 'translates' a whole repertoire of inter-disciplinary indicators and measures of cultural value in a manner that architects can readily use in improving the quality of their work and the way that the quality of their work to non-architects.

In gaining a greater understanding of the meaning and importance of architectural research for the development of their businesses, it is hoped that there will be a greater degree of engagement with Research and Development from within architectural practice. The evidence presented in the critical review should persuade some architectural practitioners of the benefits of Knowledge Exchange with academia as it seems likely that most of the cutting edge practice based research on homes and communities has strong academic input. This work builds on the AHRC Home Improvements KE CE project the PI is currently preparing a 'user friendly' RIBA Practice Research Guide (published October 2013) to enable practitioners to access new sources of funding and information in developing their research.

3. Public

Whilst the web pages and the twitter feed will be available to a wide audience we want to create another more accessible event to test out some of the ideas emerging from the critical review.The cultural value of architecture is of course bound up with public perceptions of the field. It is anticipated that public consultation, participatory techniques, visioning and post occupancy evaluation are methodologies that are likely to be on the agenda. It is therefore only fitting to stage a consultation, a debate and an exhibition in the School of Architecture Live Lab (due to open shortly in a disused shop in Sheffield city centre), the public engagement arm of our Building Resilience research centre. The public consultation will take the form of a Live Project. These are six week projects that take place annually with MArch students http://www.liveprojects.org/ The material gathered from this and the critical review, will be used by the students to create a guide to the value of architecture in creating homes and neighbourhoods directed at young people (paid for from University Widening Participation fund) raising awareness of the issues at stake.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We discovered through a literature review of around 120 grey literature industry reports that there is almost no convincing evidence that Architects bring value to projects, spawning largely from the way in which information has been presented. We suggested a new framework for gathering evidence of the profession's value.
Exploitation Route These findings are being developed through my next AHRC Research Leader Fellowship and are at the core of my publications.
Sectors Construction,Creative Economy,Education,Environment

URL http://www.culturalvalueofarchitecture.org
 
Description The findings have been used repeatedly in debates and publications within the Royal Institute of British Architects and increasingly more widely. The impact of this project can be found within Evidencing and Communicating the Value of Architects. The methodology developed for the literature review has been reused and developed for a literature review on design value as part of the CACHE UK Collaborative Housing Evidence Centre.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Construction,Creative Economy,Environment
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Contribution to ACE consultation on the evaluation of the EPBD
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description ESRC UK Collaborative Housing Evidence Centre
Amount £6,070,028 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/P008852/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2017 
End 07/2022
 
Description Newton Institutional Links Philippines
Amount £119,667 (GBP)
Funding ID 332241573 
Organisation Newton Fund 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2020
 
Description Research Grant http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2-2m-awarded-to-tackle-anti-microbial-resistance/
Amount £196,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/R002053/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 11/2018
 
Description CACHE UK Centre for Collaborative Housing Evidence 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Samuel is a Co-I, leading the work strand on housing quality and the humanities strand, in this very large consortium project (£6,070,00) with some 30 Co-Is http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk/projects?ref=ES%2FP008852%2F1
Collaborator Contribution Some of the partners were signatories in support of CACHE at the bidding stage and will be involved in its development.
Impact CACHE is in its first year but is responsible for a rolling programme of events and outputs. It is multidisciplinary spanning mainly across economics, planning, sociology, architecture. Particular events that are linked to CEKE Home Improvements include a cross university symposium on housing and cities at the University of Reading in December 2017. I have also presented CACHE in multiple fora including Research Users in Social Housing, Haringay Council.
Start Year 2017
 
Description CVoA RIBA 
Organisation RIBA - Royal Institute of British Architects
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We worked together throughout the development of CVoA.
Collaborator Contribution The RIBA facilitated meetings, helped with the development and dissemination of our work.
Impact Cultural Value of Architects report and dissemination events.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Eco-social surveying: Mapping social assets, green infrastructure and the connections between them in rapidly changing cities (Newton Funded) 
Organisation University of Santo Tomas
Country Philippines 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am PI on this project which is conducted (with separate funding) in parallel with UST. I lead the project with a project Research Assistant.
Collaborator Contribution Contributors to the project include the Academy of Urbanism and the urban planning practice Barton Wilmore. We will work with UST to develop methods for mapping social value and its relationship to green infrastructure.
Impact None as yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Kernel Simpatico 
Organisation Kernel Simpatico
Country Denmark 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are collaborating on the branding of Architects.
Collaborator Contribution Paul Iddon of Kernel Global hosted one of the CVoA consultation events and contributed to the development of the report.
Impact CVoA Final Report. We presented CVoA together at a SCHOSA meeting and are lobbying the RIBA to develop a marketing strategy for Architect.
Start Year 2014
 
Description CVoA Consultation with FE college students in Burnley 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a pilot project for future public engagement activity.

We radically revised the way we planned future consultations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description CVOA for MArch students 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk and discussion

Masters theses developing out if this area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description CVoA Consultation with Heads of Architecture Schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked lively debate on need to demonstrate value of Architectural Education

SCHOSA, Heads of Schools, agreed to fund further workshops in this area. We were asked to make further presentations in other schools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description CVoA Consultation with school children in Sheffield 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The year 9 children piloted our 'Eye Spy Guide to Architects'

The teachers were very pleased with the activity which we then planned to refine and reuse.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description CVoA presentation at Association of Architectural Educators Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talked sparked considerable interest.

Renewed resolve to develop Eye Spy Guide to Architects further
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description CVoA presentation at Housing Studies Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked suggestions.

After my talk another researcher who was working in the field of Architects realised that the architectural viewpoint was missing from her research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://housing-studies-association.org/event/hsa-conference-2014/
 
Description Consultation with Built Environment Professionals at RIBA London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The meeting helped with the development of a set of definitions of 'Architect'

The meeting assisted in the development of our Cultural Value of Architecture framework
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Consultation with Twentieth Century Society in London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The talk was followed by workshop sessions.

This helped the Twentieth Century Society to develop their strategy for impact.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Consultation with clients in Manchester 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact It was agreed that further work was needed in this area.

Development of Manchester Architects strategy and a new think tank in the area of Built Environment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description European Housing Network Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions

Helped me to develop my European network
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.enhr2014.com/organisation/enhr/
 
Description HCA symposium Sheffield 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation on the Cultural Value of Architects to an audience of registered providers of housing and others leading to debate and the realisation from a large number of audience members that they should try to access European funding sources for research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Haringary Housing Scrutiny Project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited to present evidence to Haringey Council as they developed policy for the development of Public Rented Housing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Homes and Communities Agency Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and was followed up by a consultation exercise providing some important data for the project.

The data generated fed into the project report. I was also asked to provide information on the project for DCMS.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Lecture University of Bath 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact I presented the Cultural Value of Architecture project to 70 year 3 Architecture students, sparking discussion and reflection on the value of the profession which then led to dissertations in this subject area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Lecture to year 3 architecture students at the University of Bath on the Value of Architects 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact This lecture was part of the module Issues in Contemporary Architecture..
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation of CVoA at Gureilla Tactics RIBA CPD event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop and talk resulted in raised awareness of issues.

More interest in our CVoA website
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Professional Practices in the Built Environment conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This conference was the culmination of the AHRC Leader Fellowship and aimed to bring practitioners and academics together to build a shared culture of research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.reading.ac.uk/architecture/soa-professional-practices-conference.aspx
 
Description Research Users in Social Housing presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presented the CACHE Housing Evidence Centre to RUSH to encourage their involvement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017