This is the creative phase, where the objectives and outcomes of the analysis interact. It requires imaginative, creative thinking to achieve an integrated and successful resolution of all the issues. The design team should consider a wide range of ideas in seeking both well-tried and original ways of solving problems and maximizing opportunities. Concepts are gradually refined into initial design options. The landscape architect may work up the concepts into feasible and costed layouts.
Once the initial design phase has been reached, it is important to test how it is likely to work for the prospective visitor. This can be done by the group’s using a checklist based on each stage of a visit, or by asking people less familiar with the design to imagine a visit, using the same checklist. In this way an indicative quality of the visit, which is the main determinant of the success of the design, can be assessed, and the layout and design can be refined as required. Questions of safety, barrier-free access, vehicular and pedestrian circulation and information provision can be answered in a similar fashion.
Once the design has reached this stage, it must be offered to the client and any consultees for their assessment and approval. It may also be helpful if they use a checklist similar to that derived from the stages of the visit. This enables the client to ensure that the overall objectives have been met. Consultees with disparate interests can more easily offer comments or require changes to particular aspects without compromising the whole design. The process of consultation and approval is likely to require several iterations of refinements to be incorporated into the overall design and objectives, and this has to be built into the project lead-time.
The needs of the prospective manager are important when testing the initial design, and it should be fully tested by simulating the various maintenance and management tasks at specified intervals: for example, daily, weekly, monthly or annually. It is useful to prepare an outline maintenance and management plan at the initial design stage so that the client is clear about the obligations and resources that are likely to be needed.
Finally, an important aspect of the design phase is to communicate with the local community about the project. They might be sensitive about changes to their environment, particularly if they are established users of an area that is about to be changed. Consultation should start at an early stage and continue up to and including the construction phase.
Once approval for the project has been received it moves into the construction phase. Specifications and detailed drawings are prepared to enable contractors to estimate prices, and for construction to take place. In the outdoors, especially in wilder places, the site survey information collected at the survey/inventory phase may lack precise detail. Hence there may be a need for some flexibility in the construction layout when compared with the design. For this reason, all setting out of the design on the site should be closely supervised by a member of the design team, and only approved when the desired quality is achieved.
Site protection measures, especially when working in sensitive areas, must be adhered to. These should be clearly stated in the project specifications and closely monitored.
In some circumstances, construction may be carried out by volunteers or other less skilled people. This is common in small – scale projects on sites managed by the voluntary sector, such as local nature reserves, parks and trails. Quality of construction can be more difficult to achieve. The simplest designs and construction techniques should be used, and all workers should be supervised by someone with construction expertise, good knowledge of the site and an ability to read drawings and plans.
In order to demonstrate the application of the design process it is useful to look at a case study. It is not possible to find an example that has every concern or resource issue present. However, the following example has some exacting requirements.
Design case study: Symonds Yat