This paper explores the possibility of transforming a government-initiated construction project into a design project by identifying design opportunities that may lie in seemingly a non-deign-related project. The paper discusses a bottom-up approach to identifying opportunities for design in large-scale, government-initiated, and what is essentially a civil engineering project. The Four Major River Restoration Project - which has caused heated debate and conflicts among various stakeholders such as politicians, industrialists, environmentalists and the public - has been identified as being such a project, deemed an appropriate theme for the study. In order to identify important issues and set a direction for the research, Government reports, opinions from supporters as well as opponents, and related studies are reviewed. Subsequently, successful public project cases are reviewed to explore the possibility of transforming the project into a design project. The direction for the project is then discussed based on the insights from the successful cases. As a result, Maintaining regional characteristics and unique design identity are proposed for a potentially successful design project. Openness and clear design vision have been identified as essential project attributes. The transformation of the project into a design project redefined how a design project could be initiated and determined. Affinity diagrams are used to categorize sub-plans and tasks in the master plan from the government report in view of design. From this, four major design areas in the project are identified: leisure and sport, ecological environment, tourism, and culture. The four design projects derived from the design areas are structuralized to specify sub-systems under each design project.
Through the research, it is argued that design can play an important role in making a large civil engineering project human-oriented by providing design solutions and paying attention to detail in terms of human activities.