WA Business News

Prominent Perth architects Peter Lee and Dominic Snellgrove are among those entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring future projects in Western Australia are of exemplary design, with the state government naming its expert panel for the Design WA initiative.

Planning Minister Rita Saffioti last month unveiled a pool of 50 experts to lead Design WA, comprising 37 from planning, architecture, urban design and environmental disciplines and 13 specialists in heritage, sustainability, engineering and public health.

Other prominent panel members include Caribiner managing director David Karotkin, Roberts Day principal Peter Ciemitis, University of Western Australia principal of Architecture Geoffrey London, and environmental scientist Josh Byrne.

The panel will guide the Design WA policy, which is intended to ensure large-scale developments fit in with their surroundings and provide community benefit. Urban Development Institute of Australia WA chief executive Tanya Steinbeck told Business News the state government would likely achieve its desired outcomes through Design WA by selecting such a large pool of experts across several disciplines.

“They have a good cross-section of expertise and I think the fact that they’ve gone with such a broad pool means they have the ability to select the right type of expertise based on the project,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“The fact that they have gone out broader and got themselves a pool of experts, rather than just limiting themselves to a panel of 12 or 15 that they use all the time, means that we are actually going to get expertise that’s better aligned with the nature of the projects that go up.

“There are high-profile architects in there who are highly experienced in the Perth market who will no doubt add another level of design expertise.”

Projects subject to Design WA include public works, infrastructure projects and major development proposals.

The Design Review Panel will assess projects if they are located in areas considered to have historic or environmental importance, or if the proposals are located on a prominent site.

Developments with high degrees of complexity are also expected to come under Design Review Panel scrutiny, with state government architect Geoff Warn to determine which proposals are subject to review.

Business News understands that projects assessed by the state design review panel would not be subject to scrutiny from local government review boards.

Ms Steinbeck said while UDIA was supportive of Design WA in principle, it was also concerned about any impact the state design review panels may have on construction costs and affordability.

“It’s not until we start to see projects come through, particularly the local government side and the local design review panel, that we are actually going to start to see some of the impacts of design decisions on construction costs.

“In principle we are supportive, but we still remain concerned about the level of influence that local government will have over design outcomes, while not necessarily understanding the impact on pricing and affordability.”