Does engagement have a role in master planning? 

What is a master plan?

A master plan is a long term planning document that outlines a vision to guide future growth and development. It's a high level plan that is dynamic, intended to set out objectives and strategies to manage development and change over time. The master plan process involves defining what is important about a place, and how this 'sense of place' can be preserved, improved and enhanced in the future. 

This 'sense of place' can only be effectively understood by talking to the community. The KJA team supports our clients through their master planning process by working with stakeholders and the community to find out what is important to them in their area, and their hopes for the future. This feedback provides insights to urban planners, architects and engineers as they work to build our future cities. 

What’s the best way to engage on master planning? 

Engagement on master planning is an iterative process. The first step is to identify a series of principles that need to underpin the master plan. To get to that series of principles you need to speak to people about their current environment, to understand what works for them now and what they would like to change. In our recent engagement on the Waterloo Redevelopment Precinct we used a simple exercise that encouraged involvement by people in the community, many of whom hadn’t participated in visioning before. This exercise simply asked what people would like to ‘Keep, Change, or Add’ to Waterloo. This is a great starting point to build a picture for the future.

The concern that a lot of stakeholders have is that original communities will be displaced, or that their local area will change beyond recognition. It's important then, that the engagement process captures the best features of an area, so the master planners can preserve these for the future, while capturing community aspirations as part of the future vision. The approach needs to capture and build upon the assets and strengths of the community, and work with people to ensure the 'sense of place' is sustained. The key is not to lose sight of what works now.

What is a Charrette? Where does this fit in the Master Planning process?

A charrette provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to designers, making it ideally suited to the master planning process. 

It’s also known as a process of ‘inquiry by design’, and the term ‘charrette’ (literally ‘little cart’, originating with architecture students at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the 1800s) is an intensive planning session or workshop where citizens, designers and experts collaborate on a vision for development. Ultimately, the purpose of a charrette is to give all the participants enough information to make good decisions during the planning process.

For our recent work on the Westmead Innovation District this took the form of a large-scale multi-day design workshop that brought together stakeholders from across a range of disciplines and views, from across sectors such as planning, transport, sustainability, education, and health. On the first day we had participants organised according to their specialty, working through a set of principles to consider what this place should look like in the future, before people were mixed together on Day 2 to facilitate a creative and thoughtful cross-pollination of ideas. 

There are many unknowns in putting such a vision together. This is why we bring people together who are experts in their areas, with diverse perspectives and ideas to help our clients shape the best possible strategy for the future.