Planners vs Architects.

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    • #709285

      Hi there.

      I have a question that keeps bugging me for the last few years. I should mention before that I am an Architect and I am not Irish. During my work in Ireland I have been involved in numerous pre-planning discussions. One think that struck me from beginning is the fact that a Planner..doesn’t have any architectural background😮 In my country and in most of the civilized countries, a Planner is someone whit a substantial architectural background. What I am asking is : How can a person without ANY architectural background tell someone who spent more then 6 years in a architectural college ( 6 +master) how to design a building? What gives the right to someone who comes from a geography college to comment my architectural language? I know that each county or city council has an architectural department but I am talking about the senior planners and about their involvement in the planning process. I came across few senior planners who got to this rank starting from a clerk level and spending more then 20 years in the local authority and that are acting like gods. Their decisions left me many times in a state of amazement. A negative one unfortunately. For my next pre-planning discussions I decided to go an consult my GP. At least he spent more years in college then these so called planner. I don’t want to offend anyone..but after looking at the way the planning process works in Ireland I am not surprised with the quality of the architectural products. And I learned from personal experience that the architect cannot be blamed.
      I am open to insults and discussions.


      a confused architect

    • #787838

      Interesting point but it should be said that you dont need to be an architect to be offended by bad design. Its a tricky situation where a planner has to question the design work of an architect but are you proposing that architects should be unaccountable to anybody else? The problem in Ireland is that the developers often wont pay for good design and materials so its up to the planner to try and argu for it. This seems reasonable doesnt it?

    • #787839


      My point is that the decisions regarding an architectural object and its design should be taken ONLY by persons with a relevant background. If a planner can discuss and impose design changes why cant I tell a doctor how to do his work? After all…I remember doing a anatomy class in 2nd class. it is appalling lads..honestly. This has to stop. an architect is an architect and a planner is a planner. Full stop. 😡

    • #787840

      Eh feen there’s a lot more to making a planning decision than architecture. Using your logic every planner would also be required to be a qualified structural engineer, a roads engineer, an arborealist, a sociologist, a wind engineer, a sunlight and shadowing expert, a political mastermind, a soils and drainage expert etc etc.

      Planners don’t just go off half cocked and make decisions alone. They consult with other experts, including architects, and come to a decision. They don’t tell architects how to design a building!! that’s twisting reality. If a developer wants to completely overdevelop a site with a 9 or 10 storey block in a suburban residential area, can you blame planning for knocking storeys off and permitting a less architecturally pleasing building but one which accords better to other planning principles?

      Planners don’t design crap buildings. Developers employ architects to do that. Where planning fails is in granting them, such as at City Hall. You don’t need any formal architectural training to know what a piece of crap looks like. All you need are eyes.

      However, the substance of your argument is somewhat valid in some cases, especially your comments on career Local Authority planners, many of whom are visionless and backward, much like many of their contemporary architects might i remind you. But in the irish UCD Planning course, and the TCD Geography course, we spent a good bit of time on the aesthetics of the built environment, and I’m pretty sure I could make a sound judgement on architecture. Could you do the same for traffic issues? or drainage? I doubt it. I’m still amazed at the lack of knowledge among architects of basic planning principles, such as transportation and accessibility. So it cuts both ways. The main problem is uniting disciplines where necessary. That;s where Masterplanning teams and pre-planning comes in.

      Planners need to know enough to make a sound judgement and be willing to consult when something is outside their expertise. But to expect a planner who had 5-6 years 3rd level education in this country, to then go and study architecture for another 6 or 7, much of which has nothing to do with planning, is ludicrous. Bad planners will always make bad decisions, as bad architects will always design bad buildings, but to dismiss the profession as you have, is unfair. I suggest you investigate the level of architecture and urban design that is contained in Irish planning and geography college courses before you criticise the lack of formal architectural training.

    • #787841

      Luddite planner informs architect that elements of his precious design may not be acceptable from a holistic perspective = Bad Planner/Planning?

      What a tiresome generic argument.

      Haven’t you notice this country is a bastion of mediocrity yet?

    • #787842

      i agree with feen. there are some planners i have encountered who just haven’t a clue yet change designs because they don’t like them. and yes, that has been told to me in a meeting. we can talk about traffic issuses and drainage. that’s part of our job espically in smaller offices where you have to do those yourself. i have even encountered a senior planner who it seems never took a phgotograph in her life. perspective just meant nothing. i said this in a previous thread but it really reminded me of father ted….. when ted held up the small cow and said
      “this is close while those are far away”, and i nearly said that in the meeting.

      it is unfair to tar every planner with that brush though. i have met other planners who have a real understanding of design. those meetings are very helpful and usually for me anyway turn into a general design discussion with it turns out these are the younger planners who have gone to a planning course and spent time understanding architecture.

    • #787843


      You have made some extremely valid comments here, but can I just say that the planning system is changing for the better. This country has had a pretty lousy choice of trained planners, mostly as pointed out with training in geography and sociology. But i’d welcome you to look at the variety of subjects that D.I.T has on offer with the first undergraduate course in this country, only a few years old. It really recognises that planning is about diversity, the ability to work with a variety of professions and understand them but not be them!

      Planning is just too diverse for us to be professors of everything we deal with on a daily basis we just need to know the basics, its up to you guys to fill us in. And above all despite what people think planners are not gods!!! We have strict guidelines which we have to adhere to, Development plans form the basis for most of planners decisions. Try read one

    • #787844

      I agree Feen that the perfect Planner would indeed have a excellant knowledge of architecture. And if they all fell into this ara buildings would turn out far better.

      I also think that if architects had a better understanding of construction and building usage then buildings be better designed to begin with. I’ve seen some funny stuff and im only young.

    • #787845

      It is worth noting also that in Irish Local Authorities – Planners are frequently not even qualified as such. Engineers in line for promotion frequently cross over into the Planning Section with no formal training in planning or architecture. In addtion Planners reports are freuquently overruled by people further up the food chain with even less knowledge.

    • #787846

      I often wonder are the “design guides” published by the planning authorities, produced, as much for the benefit of the “non architectural back round” planners as the general public. If a house is designed in accordance with the design guide its easy for a planner of no or limited architectural/design back round to make a decision on the house type element of the planning application.

      There is no question that we do need qualified planners particularly to assist in the assessment of major planning applications, along with architects, engineering staff, and others as necessary (ecologists / archaeologists etc). Unfortunately very often its left up solely to the planner, to access issues with regard to the building’s design, as many local authorities do not have architectural staff or departments, particularly those outside the larger urban areas.

      Furthermore I think it is a waste of valuable resources having Planners access the likes of planning applications for extensions to dwellings in rural areas.

    • #787847

      I would argue that planners, at the moment, havent the confidence to pick an applicant up on the standard of his application design….

      this, to me, is the singular reason so many abonimations get built in rural ireland….

      if the planner had some kind of architectural background they would bemore confident to refuse permissions on the basis of bad design….

      i have seen too often ‘shoe box’ generic dormers been granted permission in locations that were to extremly stragetic and exposed….

      (hope theres no problem posting the above link.)… but if you saw the location that they are building THAT particular thing, youd get sick…. its atop a hillside in laois where there are views as far as the wicklow mountains… beautiful site… and look what they give permission for!!..???

      i agree totally with feen that they should have some type of architectural background…

    • #787848

      in fairness, the planner ( or so i believe ) can’t actually comment offically on design. if it ticks all the right boxes then it gets planning. they are not at fault. red tape and all that.
      i have a friend who bought one of those housing designs out of a book. plonkeds it on a beautiful site in the hills of tipperary with stunning views.
      he has a nice view out of his utility room and that’s it. what a complete waste.

      something wrong with the link henno

    • #787849

      the link works ok FIN… you need lizardtech dejaVU installed…

      very handy when viewing online planning documents and drawings….

      Thats the first ive ever heard about the planner being ‘unable’ to comment officially on design….. i thought thats what the planners job was..??!
      I have seen housing developments refused because the planner did not like the layout, why should their hands be tied over a single one off dwelling??? are you sure ??
      the only restriction i can see them having is the fact that they are not qualified designers.. which is exactly the point i am arguing…….

      too often the planners input into design is restricted to nonconsequential matters like.. ‘change the open porch to a closed porch’… or ‘give the windows a more vertical emphasis’… or my favourite…..’alter the design to reflect the vernacular’…. :)…… in my 8 years full time experience of planniing and planning matters… i have never seen an application for a one off rural house refused due to bad design…. and i have seen many mutated abonimations being built…..

    • #787850

      thanks for that henno.

      as far as i know…they can make suggestions ( the back door to saying design is shite ) like what you just mentioned but can’t comment offically on the design. as regards housing layouts then that falls under the homezone rules and they can comment on that and make you change. now i heard that from a planner but she was rather drunk at the time and we were talking a lot of shite.

    • #787851

      @FIN wrote:

      rather drunk at the time and we were talking a lot of shite.

      Now THAT’S Planning Irish style… Hic!

      New building beside City hall? Designed on a beermat in Thomas Reads. Granted in a hungover haze on Wood Quay. Any better explanations?

      same goes for the M3, the NSS, T21, George;s Quay, people voting FF last Thursday etc etc

    • #787852

      Alonso has pretty much hit the nail on the head so to speak. I’m a planning student at UCD, I’m not going to plaumaust you with the material that we have to learn, but generally speaking we recieve an “all round” training while trying to specialise in particular areas of the built and the natural environment. We are thought to look at architecture on the basis of it’s setting, a good planner will try and place an architectural design in the contexts of where it is going and try to determine it’s suitability based upon a whole pile of criteria, not just whether the building looks aesthetically pleasing or not, it could be the most magnificent sttructure but still be “unfitting”. We’re not architects, although there are a lot of architect-planners! however over the past number of years diversification in the planning field has occured and now planners are being thought to specialise but still work as in a homogneous unit in formulating development plans etc… It’s just in this country anyway we’re catching up with the rest of the world, slowly but surely! On a different note the best guidelines on building and architecture, are the Cork Rural Design Guidelines from 2003, they’re just brilliant!

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