For several months, we have discussed various services that ODA Architecture provides to complement our core design services. This month, we will discuss our services in obtaining Design Review Committee (DRC) approvals. These committees can be self-serving, but have goals to improve the built environment and their advice is often valuable to the local community. ODA Architecture works closely with these committees to garner a consensus for design approvals.
Most communities have their own Design Review Committees with acronyms such as ARB (Architectural Review Board), BAR (Board of Architectural Review), CAB (Community Appearance Board) HDC (Historic District Committee), etc. Before this recent Design Review Committee epidemic, zoning ordinances and planning departments were the common source for providing direction to architects and owners, regulating height, scale, mass and various other requirements that ensure architectural harmony.
These committees are comprised of members from varying professions and educational backgrounds with the power to dictate architectural compatibility. While these committees often have ideas that strengthen the design concept, more often they promote uniformity. These Design Review Committees feel most comfortable encouraging designs that “already exist” in their communities. These committees rely on administering pre-scripted guidelines rather than objectively reviewing design quality. Creative “outside the box” design is not encouraged, even though unique architecture helps to create memorable places.
I am thankful these committees did not exist in the early 20th Century. America would not have some of the most iconic architecture that we enjoy today, including structures by Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Kahn, Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen and Frank Gehry. If Design Review Committees had existed, America would be robbed of architectural jewels such as NYC’s Guggenheim Museum, La Jolla’s Salk Institute, NYC’s Seagram Building, St. Louis Gateway Arch or LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall.
American cities have enjoyed historical success in attracting businesses, industry and tourism with iconic and memorable works of architecture. Uniformity and conformity in architectural design breeds blandness in the urban landscape. Design Review Committees have a noble mission of improving the built environment, but it is important to be open minded with the design guidelines. These committees must think independently and embrace diverse ideas for unique architecture to take shape creating iconic structures.