Digital Book of Landscapes 2022


Chaired by Chris Massey

The Design review process is a key part of any designer`s toolkit.

The Design review

The Design review process is a key part of any designer`s toolkit. Ensures quality, the correct visioning of projects and ensure that the design team have the correct support – the right people, exploring the right objectives, with the right tools.
Outlined the different types of design reviews, as the building design practice sees them:

  • Formal process (inception review, design reviews, design champion, review panel members assigned to projects and they happen as part of the programme)
  • Less formal process (the day to day quality checking and support from the team, quick ‘huddles’ to discuss the design or constraints, the conversations asking for more support or input from senior staff)

Design reviews should improve design outcomes, not weigh down or delay the project
I asked 3 key Questions:

  • How are we doing deign reviews currently?
  • What do we think is valuable about the design review process and what are the opportunities?
  • What are the challenges we currently face with the design review process?

General summary of responses

We got some really good conversation going, and people were very open with their feedback Overall, everyone saw the value of the design review process but have mixed approaches and outcomes on a project-by-project basis. Some key challenges were raised, as outlined below.

  • Mostly informal, as part of internal review process – sitting down with senior members of the team to quality-appraise work. These are not normally a solid part of the programme,or seen as an internal milestone in the project/to work towards.
  • Some formal Reviews are organised with multi-disciplinary teams. It was noted that much of the work we do is not alongside disciplines familiar with the design review process in this format.
  • Conducted more as-and-when the team feels the design needs reviewing to iron-out certain constraints, or at key submission stages.
  • Inception reviews should be a regular feature of every project. Same goes for Design Champions and assigned reviewers.


  • A fantastic way to get early careers team involved in the visioning of designs, to let them share their ideas and skills and to build their presentation skills and to learn from more experienced staff.
  • Design reviews should be engrained into the OCRA process.
  • A good opportunity to help influence all projects for the better, from inception if invited along by other disciplines.
  • Create efficiencies – spotting risks, solving problems, highlighting past experience and ensuring the project team is still on track re-design budget resources and Programme.


  • Has to be on a basis of mutual respect between disciplines. It is important that our role is clearly highlighted as a core and specialist technical discipline – awareness could be raised further of our broad abilities, project variety and inter-disciplinary success (i.e. we don’t just do landscape around buildings, but huge environmental projects, flood alleviation, active travel and public realm streetscape regeneration). This could help people step away from predetermined ideas of what landscape architecture is (i.e. not just the finishing touches to a project, but analysis and design of the landscape and environment that sees human habitat as part of a wider ecosystem).
  • Getting the right people with the right technical expertise across all disciplines some that aren’t used to design reviews.
  • Making sure the same people, and people who really understand the project, are at every design review. Presentation time can be taken up with repeating contextual info. This can also lead to irrelevant or repetitive feedback.
  • Pricing time into bids for review sessions.
  • Sometimes lack of openness to constructive feedback can be a challenge – this not only means the design may miss out on great ideas and others feel less safe to share their thoughts.
  • Currently, design reviews are not part of the official OCRA quality assurance process. This means that they don’t necessarily feature within fees and programmes.
  • Timing of reviews is critical – if timed correctly they will be hugely valuable, done too close to a deadline or at last minute then they can be problematic/less productive.
  • Not knowing what it is you want to gain from a design review can mean they are less productive. Setting an agenda, having clear questions outcomes and next steps is required.

Next Steps

  • Drive home the mutual respect and psychological safety spoken about in our safety and integrity moment is pertinent to this.
  • Develop a landscape specific design review protocol that suits our discipline: types of design review (inception, informal, formal), design champions, who gets involved, what you need to present etc.
  • Discussion on how fees and programmes could be tailored to empower designers, and the design review process.
  • Explore the idea of a landscape design review panel: people with particular expertise who can sit in on inception reviews and are formal design reviews to give input and stitch our teams together.
  • Continue to promote our expertise across the wider business, illustrating the range of technical capability that we have as a national team.
  • Set out to the national team what the plan of action is when formed.