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The 'veil' of control: exploring the attitudes and perceptions of UK design controllers

Black, P. (2012) The 'veil' of control: exploring the attitudes and perceptions of UK design controllers. PhD thesis, Queens University Belfast

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In the UK, architectural design is regulated through a system of design control for the public interest, which aims to secure and promote ‘quality’ in the built environment. Design control is primarily implemented by locally employed planning professionals with political oversight, and independent design review panels, staffed predominantly by design professionals. Design control has a lengthy and complex history, with the concept of ‘design’ offering a range of challenges for a regulatory system of governance. A simultaneously creative and emotive discipline, architectural design is a difficult issue to regulate objectively or consistently, often leading to policy that is regarded highly discretionary and flexible. This makes regulatory outcomes difficult to predict, as approaches undertaken by the ‘agents of control’ can vary according to the individual. The role of the design controller is therefore central, tasked with the responsibility of interpreting design policy and guidance, appraising design quality and passing professional judgment. However, little is really known about what influences the way design controllers approach their task, providing a ‘veil’ over design control, shrouding the basis of their decisions. This research engaged directly with the attitudes and perceptions of design controllers in the UK, lifting this ‘veil’. Using in-depth interviews and Q-Methodology, the thesis explores this hidden element of control, revealing a number of key differences in how controllers approach and implement policy and guidance, conceptualise design quality, and rationalise their evaluations and judgments. The research develops a conceptual framework for agency in design control – this consists of six variables (Regulation; Discretion; Skills; Design Quality; Aesthetics; and Evaluation) and it is suggested that this could act as a ‘heuristic’ instrument for UK controllers, prompting more reflexivity in relation to evaluating their own position, approaches, and attitudes, leading to better practice and increased transparency of control decisions.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Murtagh, B.
Thesis/Report Department:henl
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School > Real Estate and Planning
ID Code:37838
Uncontrolled Keywords:urban design; architecture; governance; design control
Date on Title Page:18 December 2012

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