Cast of Characters

The makeup of a design team varies with every project, and arts projects in particular often require special expertise in addition to what would be required on a residential or commercial facility project.

In general, your team of design consultants will include:

  • Project Manager
  • Architecture & Engineering Team
  • Special Design Consultants
  • General Contractor

Project Manager

A project manager is a person (or firm) responsible for overseeing the design and implementation of your project, including contracts and project delivery.  Depending on the size and complexity of the project, this may be a person you hire on to your staff for the duration, or you may choose to contract the work to a person or group with experience managing cultural projects.

In selecting a project manager, it is important on the one hand to remember that there are many project management firms who have experience managing the construction of commercial facility projects, but not as many with experience in arts or cultural projects.  In order for your project to be successful, it must not only come in on time and on budget, but also on mission – this is where a project manager with a deep appreciation for and understanding of the kind of work your organization does can be a real advantage.

Architecture & Engineering Team

Ordinarily, the architect will lead the design team.  Licensed architects are responsible for (among many other things):

  • Conceiving innovative design options and solutions that meet your requirements and comply with applicable codes
  • Managing project permitting and other jurisdictional issues
  • Documenting designs for pricing and construction
  • Managing the large team of sub-consultants who assist them in their work.

You may also ask your architect to assist you in choosing between possible building sites (during feasibility or predesign) or to produce concept sketches or renderings early on for use in fundraising efforts.

During the early stages of design, the architect will work with you and your planning consultants to develop a building design concept that will be developed during the remainder of the process.  As the project proceeds, the architect will add a number of sub-consultants to their team to provide specialty advice and systems documentation.  These ordinarily include Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing engineers (sometimes known as MEP or MEPS), as well as (in many cases) interior designers, landscape architects, and lighting designers.

The architect’s ability to do their job efficiently and effectively relies on your ability to provide consistent, timely decisions.  As the project proceeds, design changes become more and more costly to implement, and have more and more impact to the project schedule.  Even if the changes are ‘only on paper,’ late in design a seemingly minor change may require coordinating several sub-disciplines and altering hundreds of pages of design documentation.

Special Design Consultants

Facilities projects for arts and culture often call for special design consultants beyond the ‘standard’ architectural team described above.  These consultants provide specialized expertise in areas such as:

  • theatre space design and planning
  • stage equipment specification
  • acoustical design
  • museum space planning
  • exhibit design, etc.

These specialists assist the client and the architect in conceiving and designing these specialized spaces.

For small projects, the specialty consultants may be sub-contracted to the architect to keep things simple. However, for projects where the theatre, music, or museum space is at the center of the project concept, these specialists may be brought on board very early in the process – even before the architectural team – to help guide project planning from the outset.  In this case, the consultants often remain contracted directly to the client.  These consultants will also supply design documentation for specialty systems to be included in the construction documentation package.

General Contractor

The General Contractor (GC) will be responsible for using the architectural team’s documentation to build the finished project.  They will manage huge numbers of sub-contractors and suppliers and will handle payments, site improvements, cost and schedule estimates, among other things.  Depending on the project delivery method you use, the GC may be invited to join the later stages of the design process and advise on constructability and cost issues.

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