July/August 05
Issue 10


this issue...

Mindset and Methodology

A Matter of Focus
Balancing Aesthetics with Purpose

Tools for Planning II
Floor Plans, Inventories


Mindset and Methodology


This month we are concentrating on first steps. The main article A Matter of Focus — Balancing Aesthetics with Purpose suggests that although aesthetics is important and essential, program and functionality should take precedence. In Tools for Planning II — Floor Plans and Inventories a first step is the preparation of accurate, relevant data. How much space is available, how is it being utilized? “...you can't manage what you can't measure.”

Arthur Lidsky


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


A Matter of Focus
Balancing Aesthetics with Purpose


Anyone who has ever been involved in a campus improvement project knows that virtually everyone has a distinct (and often strongly voiced) opinion when it comes time to pick the paint colors. While some people are virtuosi when it comes to creating aesthetic effects, most of us would be pleased to be considered knowledgeable — connoisseurs rather than dilettantes.

Aesthetics fit into a broader context. Humankind finds comfort in ordered, balanced, serene surroundings. People take pride in making beautiful places. These are natural and noble impulses, which only surround a sense of well-being generated by other conditions.

Abraham Maslow suggests that only those who have had their basic needs addressed are prepared to grapple with higher-order issues. A starving man has little interest in the texture and piquancy of a sauce. For the hungry, the aesthetic experience can be deferred. Issues of survival and comfort supercede enhancements.

Occasionally on university campuses, aesthetic issues are the prominent focus for capital improvements, while other more fundamental needs are not adequately addressed. It is in such instances that aesthetics become an expensive thing.

Discussion in the academic and professional press in recent months has focused on buildings on campuses that represent the latest quicksilver thoughts in aesthetic trends. (cf. Chronicle of Higher Education, Architectural Record). Several articles have suggested that a client's premature focus on appearances may short-change issues of purpose and practicality. I can think of one such instance where the canopy over the main entrance to a new building (presumably erected to shelter inhabitants from rain and snow) is replete with Swiss-cheese holes in keeping with the visual "design concept". Perhaps there is something uplifting about being drenched while fumbling to find one's key that the rest of us don't yet understand.

In such cases, institutional leaders are called to task for commissioning works of art that are metaphors for what might go on inside them, rather than functional and supporting environments for real people and definable tasks. New (or renewed) facilities need to be tractable in an evolving world — designed for effective adaptation to changing uses over time.

Toward making buildings effective, one client of ours begins each new capital project by charging a representative group of end users and facility managers to develop consensus and draft a concise mission statement. The committee clarifies the purpose of the facility they will inhabit and maintain. Their vision enables designers and decision-makers to better understand and deliver what is needed. Then, a facility program is developed through a collegial process, prior to design team selection. Only after the rationale has been laid out do aesthetics even enter the conversation.

The educable (connoisseurs) look to historic precedent. The Vitruvian dictum is still useful for creating new buildings and campuses –— firmness, commodity, delight. First things first: the construction stands, accommodates its users, and thereafter pleases the perceptive.

Philosophic considerations aside, experience is jaded by fiscal reality. In the end, somebody's got to pay for these things; and they might as well work for the purposes intended.

At least that's the view from a practitioner's perspective.

Charles Craig


Tools for Planning II
Floor Plans, Inventories

Every institution benefits from current, accurate, fundamental planning tools. [See Perspectives, Issue 03, for a beginning list.] After all, you can't manage what you can't measure.

Whenever space allocation, space utilization, or staff and department moves are on the planning agenda, up-to-date, scalable floor plans of key buildings (at least) are an essential tool (documentation of all buildings is ideal). These provide not only visual data regarding space available and the arrangement of space but also serve as the basis for a room-by-room facility inventory.

Facility inventories typically track

  • Building
  • Room Number
  • Room Use
  • Department
  • Room Area in net square feet
  • Number of Seats (or assigned users, depending on room type)
  • Occupant

Many other room characteristics can be tracked, but the above are essential. Many institutions have highly developed inventories, especially if they are required to report on space allocation to state or federal authorities.

Increasingly, these institutions are merging floor plan and inventory data in sophisticated Facility Management systems. Many other (most?) institutions have little or, at best, no current detailed space data, crippling their ability to know what they have, how it is allocated, and how space can be more effectively deployed.

Developing and maintaining this data is labor intensive, especially the first time it's done, and requires consistency of method and level of effort over time to be most useful.

Build budget for this effort into a major planning study that can cover it or focus an effort prior to a campus plan. With knowledgeable direction, you can use student help to make the project more feasible.

Resources: Postsecondary Education Facilities Inventory and Classification Manual, NCES 92-165.

George Mathey


DLC+A Presented at the Harvard
The Sustainable Campus: Restorative Pathways of Growth on Campus

Arthur Lidsky, together with Randolph R. Croxton of Croxton Collaborative Architects and Carol Franklin of Andropogon Associates presented, The Sustainable Campus: Restorative Pathways of Growth on Campus in June. The seminar focused on the disciplines of campus planning, landscape architecture, and architecture.

DLC+A at SCUP’s 40th Annual, International Conference
At the recent SCUP annual meeting held in Washington, DC, Arthur Lidsky was a co-presenter in a pre-conference workshop, The Kaleidoscopic Perspective on Institutional Transformation: From Start to Finish. The workshop addressed the issues of institutional transformation encountered by participating Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) and offered strategies to overcome boundaries to success. Richard Dober presented Participation in Campus Life: A Plenitude of Places, describing a campus life space-taxonomy.


A Trend for Fine and Performing Arts
DLC+A has recently undertaken space planning and facility programming studies in the fine and performing arts at Chatham College, Macalester College, Muskingum College, Presbyterian College, Saint Xavier University, Spelman College, St. Lawrence University, and Trinity College.

Chatham College has successfully converted a vacated gym building to productive use for an art facility. A bridge structure inserted across the gymasium provides full accessibility and useful areas for critique sessions, plus views to activities in studios below.



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