There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air as the new Mayor’s Design Advocates gathered in London’s Living Room at City Hall for the induction day. We all felt extremely honoured at having been selected and were eager to find out what our new title entailed.
The day-long event had been well organised by the team at the GLA: the morning was about the Mayor and the GLA, and the afternoon was about us, the MDAs. The day’s events opened with a talk from Martyn Evans, who had been given the role of compere for the day – a role that suited him well as a lively and charismatic presenter with ample experience in regeneration.
The key note speech was delivered by Professor Tony Travers, who was as erudite as ever and set the scene on the state of the built environment in the UK.
Jules Pipe, the Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, presented the Mayor’s vision, advising us that our role will be to inform the implementation of the new London Plan focusing on Intensification, Civic Participation and Improving the Public Realm. What’s more, the MDAs will be assisting with the Mayor’s planning decisions, scrutinising quality in partnership with the Local Authority and helping with Design Review Panels (DRPs), as only 20 out of 32 Local Authorities currently have access to a DRP. The MDAs will be advising on regeneration matters throughout the Capital, providing consistent and independent design advice, challenging pre-conceptions of design and improving social infrastructure across London.
Following this, there were presentations by the different deputy mayors and mayoral advisors across a variety of GLA departments. There were calls for an integrated approach to create stronger, healthier, more sustainable, affordable, culturally-rich and diverse communities valued by local people. Our role was to co-produce, rather than consult, with existing communities and stakeholders to create more informed designs with social value.
Debbie Jackson, the Assistant Director of Regeneration for the GLA, was next to present. Her presentation conveyed the enthusiasm and excitement of the GLA and the Mayor on this programme; reinforced by the fact that all departments were represented on the day. Our roles and responsibilities would be aligned to our experience and interests, including participation in steering groups or panels.
Val Shawcross CBE, Deputy Mayor for Transport, requested input and comments on the new Transport Strategy guidance which is currently out for consultation. The intention for the strategy is to support thriving local communities and sets a 25-year plan for a healthy streets approach in London, where better public transport and infrastructure is geared more towards encouraging walking and cycling. She answered questions from the MDAs on the topics of women and girls in transport, a review of the PTAL ratings, regeneration combining residential adjacent to industrial and the use of smart-city technology to help create healthier streets.
There are six pillars of Good Growth that the MDAs will be following as identified by the Mayor: setting standards, applying the standards, building capacity, supporting diversity, commissioning quality and championing good growth by design. We selected one pillar to discuss in groups where we debated the topic, offered our ideas on the current situation and suggestions on how to improve it. Our discussions were recorded by the chosen “raconteur” and relayed to the rest of the room during the report-back session that was attended by the Mayor himself.
After the initial discussions, we were set a working session task with GLA group facilitators to brainstorm on design inquiry research topics covering eight different areas, such as inclusive design, industrial capacity and the circular economy. The debrief was full of forward-thinking and creative ideas to follow up in our steering groups and help influence London’s #goodgrowthbydesign.
After the proceedings came to an end, we all left feeling a sense of intrepid anticipation about our involvement in such a unique and worthwhile project.
Dipa Joshi, Director