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Enquiry-By-Design / Charrette

An Enquiry-by-Design is an intensive, interactive forum, over 2 to 4 days, that aims to produce non-binding urban design and planning visions for complex projects. Workshops involve a Technical Team and a Consultation Group, working in tandem. Participants work together using a consensus building approach to create both principles of development, designs and implementation strategies. A Charrette is a similar process (see our Charrette resource here), however where the Enquiry-by-Design usually involves the urban design of a limited number of sites, the Charrette involves more comprehensive visioning and urban design of an area’s employment, transport, facilities and growth.

The Charrette is longer, and involves a greater degree of public participation in terms of representation, opportunities for input, and shared decision making. The Charrette often builds towards binding outcomes.

Why Use
The Enquiry-by-Design offers a ‘live’ environment that provides immediate feedback to the Technical Team developing the plans. The process facilitates broad stakeholder understanding and ownership of planning projects. Participants are encouraged to input from the very early conceptual stages of the project through to assessing the planning proposals at the final stages. It is an effective interaction of expert opinion with community input and values.

When to Use
Enquiry-by-Design has been particularly beneficial when design interventions have the potential to have a positive regenerative effect on the area. This consultative planning technique enables win-win solutions that incorporate local stakeholder visions and values with best practice urban design and planning principles. The process works best when interrelated urban challenges need to be examined holistically rather than in isolation.

How to Use
Convenors organise the workshops. There are usually two groups working in tandem, a Technical Team and a Consultation Group. The Technical Team consists of multidisciplinary experts including local and state government representatives and consultants such as urban designers, economists and architects, notionally around 20 people. The technical group attends the entire 2-4 day forum. The Consultation Group includes a broad range of community representatives, interest groups, landowners, and commerce and industry representatives, and attends regular review sessions over the 2-4 day period..

At an initial ½day briefing and consultation session, involving both the Technical Team and Consultation Group, the Enquiry-by-Design process is outlined, design principles are explained, the project scope is discussed, and community values are elicited. Specific issues for consideration are brought before both groups in short briefings by technical experts, eg traffic issues, school planning needs etc.

Over the next 2 days, the Technical Team acquaints itself with the study area and develops urban design concepts. Small sub teams develop concepts, exchange ideas, explore options, and input to the larger Technical Team meetings.

By the close of the second day, there is an interim meeting with the Consultation Group. At this meeting, the community reviews the work done to date, and suggests amendments, additions and improvements.

On the third and fourth days, the Technical Team incorporates the community’s suggestions and develops final urban design options. At the close of the fourth day, the Consultation Group reviews the final options developed. After comparing the outcomes against their original values, the community inputs its final suggestions.

A final report is written that includes the process, the community’s input, the technical team’s’ response, and implementation strategies. This report is distributed to all participants for consideration and agreed further action.


Designate a project manager and workshop team to determine the status of the workshop, scope of the issue, expected outcomes, the people who need to be involved, and the consultation administration.

Select the Technical Team
Select a multi-disciplinary team of experts including local and state government representatives and expert consultants including planners, designers, architects, traffic engineers, and economists.

Select the Consultation Group
Select a representative group of stakeholders including community members, interest groups, landowners, commercial and industrial representatives.

Carry out Briefing and Visioning Session
Prepare briefing materials and distribute 1-week prior to the session, including why this process is being undertaken, design and planning issues, the Enquiry-by-Design process, issues and opportunities for the study area, participant list, the Agenda and a summary of briefing topics. Undertake visioning on issues and possible solutions for testing.

Organise Technical Team Workshop 1
Determine the precincts and development opportunity sites and organise sub teams to develop viable options.

Facilitate Review Session with Consultation Group
Using computer technology where possible, display and discuss the options. Encourage participants to input their views, including improvements, deletions and additions, and document the feedback.

Organise Technical Team Workshop 2
Request the subgroups to integrate the community’s suggestions, documenting where suggestions have been incorporated or why they have not.

Facilitate Final Review Session with Consultation Group
Display and discuss the re-worked plans and options. Request further input. In particular, review how well the outcomes have addressed the community’s values.

Distribute Final Outcomes Report
Prepare a final report documenting each stage in the process, including the status, purpose and scope of the project, the briefing materials distributed to participants, the interim design review outcomes and final outcomes (including the maps and designs developed and documentation of the community feedback and responses to the feedback), implementation strategies, and outlining what will happen next.

This text was excerpted from the phenomenal 36-page handout Janette Hartz-Karp distributed during her workshop at the 2004 NCDD conference in Denver. Her workshop was entitled “Governing with the People: The Australian Experience.”

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