Build a den, think of the future: Architecture ‘should be taught at primary school’, says new study

Farrell Review says that high streets and social housing estates are 'often devoid of good design'

Future generations of young children should be taught about architecture at primary school, with lessons in den building to encourage an understanding of the world in which we live, a government-commissioned study has said.

The call for building design to be taught across the curriculum is a key recommendation in the Farrell Review into architecture and the built environment, which also calls for a national chief architect to be appointed.

The review’s author, the architect Sir Terry Farrell, condemned the state of many “everyday places including high streets and social-housing estates” – describing them as “often devoid of good design-thinking”.

To help to address this, his review said architecture and an understanding of “place” should be taught “as early as possible” across different subjects rather than in its own right – arguing that it is a “fundamental problem” that the built environment is “not being sufficiently taught about in our schools”.

Another key issue is the cost of entering the profession – which can be up to £100,000. “We risk creating a situation where only the independently wealthy can afford to become architects,” Sir Terry warned. “Myself and others, like Norman Foster, brought up in modest circumstances in the North of England, could possibly not have afforded to become architects today.”

Den-building lessons are cited as a way of giving children “an understanding that shelter is something we create, and can change”. Education is part of a “major cultural change that is needed to make proactive planning and high-quality design a normal and accepted part of our society,” the study said.

Sir Terry said: “I hope this review will be the catalyst for change and the start of a big conversation about our built environment.” The Culture minister, Ed Vaizey, who commissioned the review, said: “Good design builds communities, creates quality of life and makes places better for people to live, work and play in.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Architecture is covered in the new art-and-design curriculum, which will be compulsory in all maintained schools from this September.”

Farrell’s findings: other proposals

- Appoint a chief architect

-  Have local authority “civic champions” to promote good design

- Use planning fees to recruit more design-literate planners

- Establish a Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Conservation and Engineering (Place) Leadership Council

- Define a new method for valuing property which includes “measurable space standards” and “design quality”

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