May/June 05
Issue 09


this issue...



- What to do when the
budget won't stretch


Grim Reality


In this issue we look at the importance of integrated planning from two perspectives, one conceptual, the other procedural.

If the term “master plan” has become so ubiquitous as to dilute its meaning as the parent plan coordinating all major projects on a campus, what term should be used to more accurately describe this essential process and document? Art raises this question and proposes an answer.

When budgetary constraints rein a project in, a participatory process involving those affected by the outcomes can advance decisions through turf-based impasses. Charles explains.

George Mathey


If you have reactions or ideas to share, please let us know what you think by e-mailing:

The Death of the
Campus Master Plan

At one time, the term “Master Plan” had a meaning that all who used it seemed to understand. Today, it has lost that meaning: it seems as if any planning or design is a “Master Plan.”

It reminds me of the word “love” which used to have a specific meaning and now is used casually to mean anything from copulation, to affection, to like, to zero in tennis.

Most colleges and universities use the term master plan with little understanding
or differentiation.

Architects are notorious for using the term “master” for almost any project — all plans, or rather designs, are “master plans.” In addition to campus master plans, I have seen master plans for a section of a campus, and master plans for individual buildings. I have seen master plans for windows and master plans for toilets. What does the word “master” mean in any of these contexts? Whatever you wish — and therefore it means little — and, in fact, the use of the term adds a level of implied importance and thoroughness that is misleading. Institutions are making multimillion dollar decisions based on incomplete information and information that is out of context with the broad picture.

I once saw a university that had a science building master plan, and a master plan for a group of science buildings, and a master plan for the campus. Of course, each of these master plans had little in common.

The term master plan used to mean the predominant plan under which all other plans conform. It was meant to be the predominant plan that would give guidance and create the context for other, dependent plans, and subsequent design.

It is no longer a useful term to describe the complex, comprehensive, participatory process that integrates academic, financial, and facility planning. There are several professional planning organizations that stress the need for integrated planning. The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) and Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) are two examples. Both stress the need for mission, vision, and academic plan to be the driving force for campus planning. Both stress the need to integrate academics, finances, and facilities. Despite their efforts, most campus “master” plans lack an in-depth, inclusive,comprehensive planning process.

I would like us to drop the meaningless term master plan and use some other term to reflect what a master plan should actually be — integrated and comprehensive. The essential characteristics of a campus plan should be the integration of academic, financial, campus life, and facility issues. So in that regard, I vote for integrated campus planning.

Why is this important? Because the quality of campus planning has declined as the meaning of the term “master” has become diluted. As less emphasis is placed on the need to integrate academic and financial planning with physical planning, the so-called master plan has become merely a physical design.


Arthur Lidsky

University of Chicago Master Plan


What to do when the budget won't stretch

A senior university administrator recently expressed concern to me that faculty and staff expectations should not be unrealistically raised regarding an upcoming building renovation, because she was apprehensive about how far the available budget would stretch. Ideas and perceived needs often seem expansive.

Experience shows the easy part of capital planning is establishing what needs to be done (the extent of construction or renovation) and thus derive a cost projection. It is also fairly straightforward to develop an approach to accomplish necessary tasks within a limited budget.

For example, one can:
A) Defer the project until sufficient funds are secured

not uplifting

B) Phase the project

possibly complicated

C) Raise additional funds by —
1) robbing Peter . . .


2) finding donors


The hard part, faced squarely, is taking the middle path and dealing with the complications.

This is where participatory planning — though energy and attention demanding — can pay dividends in general goodwill. By engaging all users who will be affected by the facility improvements (or deferments) in an open process to establish the rationale and priorities for moving early improvements forward, the tensions, resentments and disappointments can be lessened, if not allayed.

In many instances, I have seen how people who have an input in forming decisions can readily accept the logic of a course of action, even when they do not immediately benefit. By being involved, everyone will witness progress, particularly where broad and commonly agreed missions and values are advanced.
So, Judith, it would seem that planning when done well, just like politics, is local and built on a grass-roots base.

Charles Craig


A Trend for Business Schools
This spring DLC+A has initiated facility programming studies involving three business schools at Saint Xavier University, Wayne State University, and Ferris State University.

Chronicle of Higher
Education Article

Arthur Lidsky's article, “Why Hiring a Star Architect isn't always a Stellar Idea” appeared in the March 25 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article has generated strong opinions on both sides. If you would like a copy of the article, please e-mail

The Sustainable Campus
Arthur J. Lidsky will be giving a seminar on “The Sustainable Campus: Restorative Pathways of Growth on Campus,” Harvard University Executive
Education Program, June 29th from 9:00 to 5:00. Co-presenters are Randy Croxton of Croxton Associates and Carol Franklin of Andropogon Associates.


Campus Heritage
Hot Off the Press

Richard P. Dober's latest book, Campus Heritage, is now available. Published by the Society for College and University Planning, the monograph describes and illustrates the contributions campus heritage can make to promote, strengthen, and support institutional goals and objectives and outlines suggested methods and opportunities for incorporation campus heritage in campus plans, facility plans, and campus design concepts. To order a copy of the book, visit

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