Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Makes a Great Master Plan - the basics

maria mortati, gyroscope inc, museums Last week, I had a conversation with Chuck Howarth, our Master Planning Guru. I wanted to know what are the basic elements of a great plan. Given that this is a big part of our what we do, I'll go into greater depth in future posts. For now, let's start with the bones:
  1. Definition of the audience. Who will come, and how many? Demographics.
  2. Definition of the program. Why will they come? Exhibits, education, theaters, outreach, web.
  3. Architectural concept and site. Where will they come? How can the building reflect and support the mission and program?
  4. The business model. How will the museum support itself? Earned income, support, philanthropy, endowment... What is the relationship between the business model and the service model (item #2 above)?
  5. The capital budget. What's it all going to cost to put the plan in place?
The master plan generally addresses all aspects of the project EXCEPT fund-raising feasibility, which is usually handled separately. That's partly because it is a very different discipline, and partly because of the inherent conflict of interest in having the same team evaluate both the likely cost and the likely resources. When I pressed about "greatness", here's what he had to say:
"Now as to whether it is a GREAT master plan—guess that would depend on doing all of the above well, but also doing them all together. Each feeds back on the other. The program affects the staff plan and operating budget; the capital budget influences the architecture and exhibits; the audience affects and is affected by the program and the business model. And so on. The most common mistake is to treat each topic as more or less discrete, for example by trying to estimate attendance before studying what kind of museum and what type of program. So the plan needs to be holistic and address everything at once. And do it with substance, style, careful research, and creativity."
Thanks, Chuck!

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