Quality design needs to be at the heart of infrastructure

National Infrastructure Commission chief executive, Phil Graham.

In a speech to the Campaign to Protect Rural England, National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) chief executive Phil Graham has highlighted the importance of quality design within all NIC efforts, in order to achieve the best possible results for infrastructure throughout the UK.

“Good design is crucial in delivering good infrastructure," said Graham. "Good design is about more than aesthetics, it is about delivering infrastructure which works for its users, and for everyone affected by it," he said..

Graham's speech was part of an announcement on the National Infrastructure Commission partnering with design agency 5th Studio, which will first focus on the NIC’s Cambridge- Milton Keynes – Oxford growth corridor study, a study described by Graham as “a real-life example of how design and infrastructure interact.”

Through NIC’s partnership with 5th Studio for this study, the objectives are to meet the challenge of the lack of sufficient and suitable housing in the area in three ways: -

    1. By assessing the different forms that new developments along this corridor could take (including but not limited to: brownfield development, densification of existing settlements, urban extensions and new towns and development around new transport hubs).
    2. By investigating the different forms of infrastructure needed to connect these various new developments and the effect this has on the quality of housing and the built and natural environment.
    3. By assessing the most appropriate form of housing development to meet the needs of this area, supporting housing need, jobs and growth.

    The partnership will also encourage good design in infrastructure and housing within the area, using international best practice.

    5th Studio is a leading UK spatial design agency, based in Cambridge, that has worked across architecture, urban design, infrastructure as well as landscape.

    In his speech, Graham continually stressed that housing, and other forms of infrastructure, must be "suitable" for the area impacted and that appropriate design is essential to ensure that efforts to improve local infrastructure makes the place “attractive as somewhere to work and live in its own right". Graham also stressed that solutions for good design depended upon local engagement, no matter the type of infrastructure.

    Looking beyond the study at hand to the wider remit of the NIC, Graham said: "Our role will be to provide a framework and, perhaps more importantly, to help partners frame their ambitions. The work that we will do with 5th Studio will play a key part in supporting this. If we get it right, this project and the design principles that have driven it can provide a model for other areas and other infrastructure schemes.”