Masterplan, Harlow North

A major new, sustainable town extension Harlow Town in Essex of approximately 1,000 hectares. Comprising at least 10,000 new homes, schools, shops, community facilities and parks.


The competition was won by Grimshaw with Rick Mather Architects.

The other three shortlisted teams were: Allies + Morrison Arup Urban Design Barton Willmore with Studio Egret West


This was a hybrid competition, by invitation only, to identify a master planner with whom HNJV could develop proposals. It was set up as a three-stage competition with expressions of interest and competitive interviews followed by a request for an approach to design: a master plan per se was not requested as part of the competition process.

A total of 26 organisations, primarily from the UK but including teams from Europe and North America were invited to submit an expression of interest; 11 teams were invited to interview, of which four were asked to take part in the second stage and given an honorarium to address two specific design challenges. Following a second interview, the winner was selected.

Our involvement

  • Designing the right competitive process
  • Researching and identifying potential competitors to invite
  • Writing the competition rules
  • Writing the competition brief, in particular devising the brief for the design element of the competition
  • Planning the competition timetable and budget
 to meet client requirements
  • Acting as point of contact for the competition
  • Ensuring a clear and ethical process
  • Helping the client identify appropriate technical advisors
  • Briefing the jury panel
 and the technical advisors
  • Briefing competitors
  • Managing the competitive process
  • Advising on and then managing the scoring/evaluation procedures
  • Arranging and facilitating interviews and presentations
  • Creating an audit trail
  • Assisting with press and media enquiries and coverage
  • Competition administration
  • Debriefing and follow up

"Colander structured and co-ordinated a major design competition and pushed the client team to think differently. The result was a competition that was innovative, thoughtful, challenging and original. At all times Caroline handled a complex instruction with grace, humour and above all professionalism. I would recommend Colander without reservation."

— Tom Clarke, Development Manager, Land Securities


  • This was a large scale, complex master planning project
  • The competition process had to take into account the backdrop of strong local and community interest
  • The client wanted to attract interest from organisations from both outside and within the UK.
  • The client had a strong social and environmental agenda, which needed to be reflected in the brief, in particular in the design element in Stage 3 of the competition.
  • The multi-headed client brought to the table clear expertise in creating communities and in development, which informed both the brief and the competition process. Equally, this meant that there were wide ranging aspirations for the project and for the competition. These needed to be melded into one, robust brief and programme.
  • The client was hoping to be pioneering in its appointment of a winning team and wanted to select from the very best practitioners offering a variety of approaches.
  • The client put as much emphasis on creating places as it did on creating architecture.
  • The competition involved a rigorous, auditable procurement route.
  • The timescale for the competition was fast and we were expected to manage the process effectively and with the minimal amount of fuss.