25 October 2011 – Victoria is re-forming the Office of the Victorian Government Architect as a more independent and authoritative voice for design in Victoria in a move that could follow South Australia’s urban design lead (see our recent story) and launching a design review panel to strengthen Victoria’s design leadership.>

The changes come at a time when the state is re-thinking its urban planning model.

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu announced both changes at the launch of the inaugural Melbourne Architecture Annual, a week-long, city-wide festival which is part of the Australian Institute of Architects’ National Architecture Week.

Mr Baillieu said the OVGA is being repositioned to become a leader in enhancing the quality of built environments in Victoria.

The OVGA will provide direction and strategic advice to government about
architecture and urban design, and promote awareness about how good design can enhance living spaces and urban areas, the Premier said.

While retaining a whole-of-government perspective, the OVGA will now assume a more independent position.

“The independence of the OVGA will enable the Office to advise openly and
candidly about issues of design quality, and to become more visible in its
role as advocate and adviser,” Mr Baillieu said.

“It will reinforce, at every opportunity, the added value that good design
brings to projects and encourage a built environment that leaves a rich
legacy for future Victorians.”

Mr Baillieu launched the Victorian Design Review Panel at the same event. He said that the panel, which will be overseen by the OVGA, is expected to help improve and strengthen Victoria’s leadership in national urban planning and design.

“As an architect, I know that functional, high-quality and visually pleasing environments make for a happier community and that a high-quality built environment contributes to a better quality of life,” Mr Baillieu said.

The panel will initially operate within a three-year pilot program and will provide independent and authoritative advice to government and statutory decision-makers across Victoria about the design of significant government projects.

Members of the panel will come from a range of disciplines including urban design, architecture, landscape architecture and planning and will have a high level of current experience in design and its evaluation, and the skills to appraise proposals objectively.

The changes are part of a larger overhaul of Victoria’s urban planning model, with the Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee receiving over 500 submissions in response to its call for ways to improve the planning system.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the call for submissions, which closed on 31 August, are now available on the Department of Planning and Community Development website.

“The Advisory Committee has also been consulting extensively with stakeholders, including local government, community and industry representatives.

“I want to thank all submitters for taking the time to make their views known about how our planning system could be shaped for the future,” Mr Guy said.

The Advisory Committee will be submitting a preliminary report to the Minister for Planning by the end of November, 2011.

The submissions can be viewed at www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/systemreview

lblundell@thefifthestate.com.au