Beauty in the eye of the design reviewer: The contested nature of UK design review

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Design review is an independent expert-led mechanism, employed to evaluate the design quality of proposed developments. It claims an objective and transparent approach, yet has limited guidance on how, or what, reviewers should evaluate. Few studies focus on these reviewers or their attitudes and perceptions to the process. This research, using interviews and Q-Methodology, reveals key differences in how reviewers conceptualise and evaluate design quality within review. The paper argues design review is a contested mechanism, where subjective appraisal plays out alongside more objective approaches. Four competing reviewer priorities on the process are presented: sustainability; people/public; function; and visual aesthetics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-574
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Urban Design
Issue number4
Early online date10 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2018


  • design review
  • design quality
  • design control
  • agency
  • urban design
  • architecture


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