Tuesday, 20 June 2006

New Urban Design Commissar for Auckland

It's not often you meet a real-life 'Jeremy.' Here's one here, a pom called Ludo Campbell-Reid (picture below) who's just landed in Auckland to take up the new position of 'Group Manager Urban Design' at Auckland City Council.

Yes, Virginia, he's a bureaucrat. An Urban Design Commissar. The head of Auckland City Council's Official Taste Panel.

As he proudly told the Herald, he's here to tell us all what we can and can't build in Auckland city. People don't ask to run their design ideas past people like Ludo, they're forced to if they want any chance of seeing them built. I posted a while back one architect's account of what dealing with the Jeremys and Ludos of the world is like. And I posted when this new job was announced what I thought about it, and I asked if there was any way this building might ever get past the Taste Panel that Ludo is here to head up.

He and Jackie Wilkinson should get on like a house on fire.

Ludo and his colleagues might like to read Thomas Sowell's Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as the Basis for Social Policy. I expect he'll recognise himself and his colleagues within Sowell's pages. Some excerpts:
Everyone is for a beneficial outcome; they simply define it in radically different terms. Everyone is a "progressive" by his own lights. That the anointed believe that this label differentiates themselves from other people is one of a number of symptoms of their naive narcissism...

In their haste to be wiser and nobler than others, the anointed have misconceived two basic issues. They seem to assume (1) that they have more knowledge than the average member of the benighted and (2) that this is the relevant comparison. The real comparison, however, is not between the knowledge possessed by the average member of the educated elite versus the average member of the general public, but rather the total direct knowledge brought to bear though social processes (the competition of the marketplace, social sorting, etc.), involving millions of people, versus the secondhand knowledge of generalities possessed by a smaller elite group...

The presumed irrationality of the public is a pattern running through many, if not most or all, of the great crusades of the anointed in the twentieth century--regardless of the subject matter of the crusade or the field in which it arises. Whether the issue has been 'overpopulation,' Keynesian economics, criminal justice, or natural resource exhaustion, a key assumption has been that the public is so irrational that the superior wisdom of the anointed must be imposed, in order to avert disaster. The anointed do not simply happen to have a disdain for the public. Such disdain is an integral part of their vision, for the central feature of that vision is preemption of the decisions of others...

In their zeal for particular kinds of decisions to be made, those with the vision of the anointed seldom consider the nature of the process by which decisions are made. Often what they propose amounts to third-party decision making by people who pay no cost for being wrong--surely one of the least promising ways of reaching decisions satisfactory to those who must live with the consequences...
LINKS: Englishman with designs on city - NZ Herald
Architect vs bureaucrats - Not PC
Mediocrity and medding announced by Mother Hubbard - Not PC
Ms A. Presley gets community service - Not PC
Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim - Not PC

TAGS: Auckland, Urban Design, Politics, Bureaucracy, Cartoons


  1. Thomas Sowell on the money, as always.

    He eloquently describes what I (less eloquently) believe: that in spite of the supposedly selfless (but in reality nothing of the sort) 'I'm doing this for the people' rhetoric, the self-anointed have no faith in 'the people' whatsoever. They have no time for 'the people'. And they certainly have no respect.

    Vile, interfering bastards.

    Name me a cabinet minister who's not a member of the Self-Anointed.

    I rest my case.

  2. Ugh... if Ludo's taste in architecture is as banal and content-free as his taste in buzzword-constipated language, Auckland is well and truly fucked.

  3. He did at least make the distinction between urban design and architecture.

    The Hubbrads/Huckers/Herald always get this wrong.

    My basic understanding is that urban design is the relationship between public and private space, and how a building works in it's surroundings - simple things like continuing a verandah along a street etc.

    This left wing Council want also own (free of course) what you can do in your own villa.

    The current Res1 property right grab is shocking.

    Peter - did you put in a submission? are you presenting to the hearing (this week).

  4. Asking an English planner to lead Auckland to great urban design etc is like asking some one from New Mexico for advise on air pollution.

  5. You sound pretty bitter and prejudiced to me.

    Good urban design is so much more than 'taste'. It's about functionality, integrating development positively, balancing out demands made on the spaces, promoting the public interest and thinking about the bigger picture.

    If LCR can encourage people thinking about those issues and deciding for themselves where the level of acceptability lies then he's doing his job properly.

    Any matters of taste or whatever get dealt with in public consultation. However the problem with consultation is that often it just reveals how divergent people's views actually are. However, even if that proves to be the case in a specific planning application, a decision HAS to be made over whether the allow the application or not anyway. In some respects having that respsonsibility is a poisoned chalice in the face of criticism you've made. The planning system he is operating within is never going to live up to your unrealistic standards.

    But it does give you an opportunity to be arrogant because he's a soft target for you.

  6. Exactly! ^^ Bitter would be the word. Are you ever positive about anything to do with Auckland? If you compare places like Wellington and many European cities with Auckland-this place is like a shithole. All the nice developments are bogged down by people who like to whinge and moan about everything and all the cheapo developments manage to slip under the radar. Urban design is much more than you give credit to.

  7. Your personal attack on Ludo Campbell-Reid and vitriol towards urban design is completely unjustified and grossly unfair.

    The fact that Owen McShane supports your position says it all.

    Auckland is a far more attractive place to live, visit, invest and work thanks to the work of urban design professionals and supporters, including Ludo.

    And what have you accomplished?



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