An Enquiry-by-Design is an intensive workshop that takes places over several days to develop proposals for urban planning and design projects.

Problems and Purpose

An Enquiry-by-Design is defined by deliberative democracy scholar and practitioner Janette Hartz-Karp as "an intensive, interactive forum, over 2–4 days that aims to produce non-binding urban design and planning visions for complex projects."[1] Similar in procedure to a Charrette, the Enquiry-by-Design method is used in more specific instances of urban design such as single-sight redevelopment. 

Enquiry-by-Design is used in cases where an urban redevelopment project is thought to have postitive, regenerative effects on the community. This creates a win-win situation between the government or other implementing body and the citizenry: where the former requires an urban area be altered, the latter will most likely be keen to have a say in the process. The Enquiry workshops bring together a technical team and a consultation group to develop a both a mutually satisfying design and a feasible implementation strategy.[1] It is therefore suggested that the Enquiry-by-Design method be employed in cases where interrelated urban challenges are being discussed; while the technical team could adequately address the immediate design concerns on their own, the consultant group is necessary to ensure the design fits in with the broader goals of the community. For example, the Enquiry-by-Design method was used in Bassendean, Australia to redesign a train station which, it was hoped, would provide an "attractive and safe focal point, as well as [a] catalyst for further renewal of the Bassendean town centre area."[2]

Origins and Development

The Enquiry-by-Design process has been used in Australia, New Zealand, and England.[3]

Two case studies include the Bassendean Train Station Enquiry-by-Design in 2001 and the comprehensive, long-term community planning of Port Hedland in 2004.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The method used to select participants can vary from case to case and is primarily determined by the scope of the project and the level of actual or anticipated contention among stakeholders. The Bassenden case used a random selection method, public advertisements, and targeted invitation of key stakeholder groups. In contrast, the Enquiry-by-Design in Port Hedland used a telephone survey prior to the event followed by a random sample, public advertisements and the establishment of a steering group made up of stakeholders, local councils representatives and members of the regional development commission.[4] The technical team is usually comprised of "multidisciplinary experts including local and state government representatives and consultants such as urban designers, economists and architects, notionally around 20 people."[5]

How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making

The Enquiry can last anywhere from 2-4 days and is attended by members of the technical team and the consultation group. The first half day is dedicated to briefing members of both groups on the event process, the design principles, and project scope. As well, a discussion of the community values is held which, it is expected, both teams will take into consideration in their decision-making. This time period may also include brief presentations on specific issues by technical experts. 

The rest of the first day and the morning of the next are dedicated to the development of urban design concepts by the technical team. Depending on the complexity of the project, it may be useful for smaller sub-teams to conceptualize and brainstorm ideas which are then fed back to the main team for consideration.

At the end of the second day, the technical team meets with the consultation team and relays their work thus far. The consultation team then takes the rest of the day to independently review the progress and suggest any changes. 

The technical team takes the final 1-2 days to incorporate the consultation team's advice into its final design plans which are again reviewed by the consultation team before the final report is written. The final report is to contain "the process, the community's input, the technical team's response, and implementation strategies."[1]

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The novelty of the Enquiry-by-Design process lies in what Hartz-Karp terms a "live environment" which "provides immediate feedback to the Technical Team developing the plans".[1] The final report is thus far more complete than those of other processes such as citizens' juries or consensus forums since it is not only a measure of public opinion but an amalgamation of public opinion, technical know-how and stakeholder approval. In short, the final report presents the convening body with a 'ready-to-go' implementation plan — both technically feasible and community approved.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The enquiry-by-design method is unique in providing multiple instances for the collection of feedback from the participants. At the end of each of the technical team's two working days, the consultation team is provided with a report not only of the design plans but of the procedure followed to create them. The consultation team is to assess all aspects of the technical team's work and may therefore provide 'live' feedback on the procedure itself. The enquiry-by-design's success hinges on the ability and willingness of the technical team to take in and act on the consultation team's advice.

As well, the enquiry-by-design method is meant to include all stakeholders — including lay community members — from conceptualization to design to implementation. While the final report is a product of technical design and community consultation, and could, in theory, be placed solely into the hands of officials for implementation, the enquiry process demands that the report be distributed to all participants for further consideration and consensual development of further action plans.[6] Practitioners looking to use the enquiry-by-design method should take seriously the continued engagement of the original technical and consultation teams during and after the implementation process if the totality of positive, regenerative effects of the design are to be actualized. 

See Also

Bassendean Train Station - Enquiry-by-Design 

Port Hedland Enquiry-by-Design 


[1] Hartz-Karp, Janette. (2004). "Breakthrough Initiatives in Governing With the People: The Australian Experience." National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation.

[2] Parry, L. & Participedia Contributors. (2016, Oct 20). Bassendean Train Station Enquiry-by-Design. Participedia.

[3] The ESD, Ecologically Sustainable Development: "Enquiry by Design".

[4] Parry, L. & Participedia Contributors. (2016, Oct 24). Port Hedland Enquiry-by-Design. Participedia.

[5] NCDD Resources Center. (2008, Dec 24). "Enquiry-by-Design"

[6] The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment: "Enquiry by Design" (2008). [DEAD LINK]

External Links