The key to urban and landscape planning that engages the community and enhances the social amenity of its people is to preface the design work with an inclusive process of conversation and discussion at all levels.
Our process of collaborative design facilitation has been devised to invite the honest input and cooperation of every social group involved, with the objective of inspiring a sense of pride in ownership while providing architects and designers with the information and feedback that will lead them to the most agreeable solution to the brief.
Although UDLA approaches every project from a fresh perspective, so that the process described below may vary, our general procedure can be described as follows:
Statement of principles and expectations – Working with the project’s originators and any other stakeholders they may bring in at this stage, we seek to define the physical parameters, expected outcomes and other desirable consequences of the project, as well as describing the environmental, social, financial and economic boundaries.
Articulating these foundations at the outset helps to keep the project on track, provides a valuable point of reference, and allows specific research into similar successful projects.
Reference group recruitment – Depending on the location, the task in hand, and the principles and expectations, we may assemble several reference groups of various sizes and constituents. Cultural, environmental, historical and social interests will be represented, as will local and state government and other authorities, and the major stakeholders such as landowners, investors and management.
Our role as facilitators and communicators comes to the fore in this activity, and we encourage a cycle of feedback from the groups to the wider community, and back again – a system we call ‘circular reporting’.
With these reference groups, we then conduct a series of workshops.
Workshop 1: Site Analysis, Opportunities and Directions
This broad-based discussion covers issues such as the physical, heritage and cultural characteristics of the site, the project’s function within the community, the sense of scale and scope, and opportunities for community input through art and cultural interpretation.
The groups’ initial exploration of possibilities covers social, cultural and environmental factors as well as financial, economic and legal considerations. Together, we arrive at a deeper understanding of the site context from a range of perspectives, which allows us to explore opportunities and directions, including possible site programming, future events and design avenues.
Workshop 2: Exploring Project Scenarios
UDLA reconvenes the reference groups to present them with a range of varying project scenarios based on the results of the first workshop.
The scenarios address the project from different angles and offer contrasting ideas, styles and inclusions so that, working with the reference groups, we can determine preferred design directions, site facilities, uses, programs and opportunities. The consequences of these decisions, such as employment, commercial and event opportunities will also be discussed.
At this workshop, the UDLA team will also provide deeper analysis of similar projects identified through the analysis workshop, so that elements of these precedents can be discussed and possibly incorporated into the next phase.
Workshop 3: Draft Concept Plan
Subsequent to the development of an agreed design approach at the scenario workshop, UDLA prepares a more detailed, integrated concept plan. This draft plan is presented at the final workshop, along with supporting documentation, sections and images, as well as site programming, maintenance and ongoing governance policies, for reference group discussion and approval.
Reference group participants are invited to share these with their wider communities, and the final feedback that emerges from this process is incorporated into the next design phase. However at this point the workshop phase is complete.
Design Finalisation and Project Commencement
The input and contributions of the various reference groups helps us build a powerful and detailed consensus regarding the way the project should proceed, and in the final phases we undertake the design and documentation with confidence and commitment.
UDLA works closely with the clients, local and state authorities, involved design and construction professionals, artists, and a range of other participants, to ensure that the construction and completion of the project meets all expectations and desired outcomes.
Our approach is inclusive, respectful, informed and transparent. We welcome constructive feedback and appropriate contributions, and we acknowledge the need for a collaborative, communicative relationship with all participants and stakeholders. The UDLA team brings no ego into the project – our reward is the completion of the project to the satisfaction of all concerned.