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Word Plinth 2003
Gareth Jones

Mead Gallery University of Warwick
Until 26 June
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The Value of Good Design [added 19/2/03]

The next five years will see the largest public investment programme in new buildings for a generation. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's conclusion is that we cannot afford not to invest in good design. According to Sir Stuart Lipton, CABE's Chair the stakes are high: we can "match or even surpass the Victorian age", or we could end up with dysfunctional and unloved buildings.

CABE's recent publication, The Value of Good Design, includes some interesting statistics and observatons to support the case.

  • Norman Foster found that if you consider the cost of a building over 25 years, only 5.5% will be the physical envelope and the costs of inhabiting it is 86% - a small investment in design quality can thereby have significant impact on this larger percentage.
  • 2 billion pounds per year is spent treating illness arising from poor housing stock - more than is spent by local authorities on the building stock itself.
  • Within a few months of the New Art Gallery Walsall's opening the local Boots store was taking an additional 4000 a day.
  • Within two years of the Tate Gallery opening in St. Ives, people whose main reason for visiting St. Ives was to visit the gallery contributed 16 million per annum to the local economy.
Similar examples match Government priorities: Healthcare, Educational environments, Housing, Civic Pride and Cultural activity, Business and Crime Prevention.

The impact of the quality visual environment can be further substantiated by studies in the visual arts. Just as patients in hospital have been shown to benefit from views of real landscapes, in the most recent survey of patients, staff, and visitors at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, nearly a half of the patient sample registered the positive effect of having works of visual art in the wards. (A study of the effects of the visual and performing arts in healthcare, Lelchuk Staricoff et al, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Arts, London, Hospital Development, June 2001. The full report is due out in the spring of 2003. See the National Network for Arts in Health website.)

The Value of Good Design: how buildings and spaces create economic and social value, CABE, 2002. The research cited in this short document summarises a CABE commissioned literature review of design value compiled by the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London. For further details of CABE's work see www.cabe.org.uk.