Workshop-based process

The new approach to large scale urban design uses a workshop-based process split into three phases - prepare, design, implement.

Three phases

  1. Prepare – understand the challenge
    Define the project scope, select a spatial boundary, choose your project team, inform stakeholders, gather information, analyse and write a brief for the design phase.
  2. Design - develop a spatial strategy
    This phase is based on one or more intensive workshops that are guided by expert facilitators.
  3. Implement - deliver the strategy
    The implementation plan sets out how the strategy will be delivered and by whom. This is based on the earlier exploration of delivery issues and its preparation may culminate in a dedicated workshop with delivery partners.

See the whole process at a glance.

Benefits of a workshop-based approach

A workshop-based approach has many advantages over other methods of spatial planning. These include:

  • a shorter time scale: the design process is compressed into a number of workshops, making it cheaper and less likely to be out-of-date before it is finished
  • iterative working: frequent feedback loops and immediate design responses are built in
  • integration: all parties are engaged, and work brought together at different spatial scales in a single design process
  • engagement and sense of ownership: active participation in developing design solutions helps stakeholders to be positive and to own the project
  • conflict resolution: with all parties working together, any conflicts become evident quickly – stakeholders can discuss and resolve them immediately
  • consensus building: working alongside each other allows participants to develop an understanding of the wider issues
  • capacity building: participants become informed decision-makers who are able to develop strategic solutions in a structured and inclusive manner
  • increased probability of implementation: the workshops consider delivery issues from the start through a process that includes multi-disciplinary teamwork and engages politicians, funders, delivery bodies and the wider community.

Despite these advantages, challenges remain. The biggest of these is how to reconcile different views and avoid ‘consensus as compromise’, that is, reaching decisions that no one objects to but no one believes in either.

The new approach as outlined in this guide addresses difficult issues head on: this will be a tough process and not everybody is going to get everything they hoped for. It selects a handful of good, deliverable projects rather than agreeing to a long list of untested ones. And it develops strategic themes, spatial options and proposals for key projects to a level that is detailed enough for the wider community to engage with, allows for proper testing and forecasting of impacts, and provides adequate guidance for delivery partners.