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Norden Farm Centre for Arts

Lessons Learned

Process/Timetable Issues

The artists and Artpoint reported that the structure and preliminary developmentof the project enabled the artists to be successfully integrated within the DesignTeam from the outset. The workshops enabled them to have a holistic overviewof the project, to familiarise themselves with the site, and to understand thekey challenges facing the Design Team. This time and effort spent on team buildingat the outset proved invaluable when problems arose during the design developmentstage.

Two key areas of contention resulted in delays to timetable and excessive time demands being placed upon artists and other project partners: the lack of experience/expertise of the artists in specifying their works for construction by a third party; and the contractual agreements for the commissions.

Status of the Artists' Commissions

Despite every intention to integrate both the artists withinthe Design Team, and the commissions within the essential fabricofthe Centre, from the point of delay in supplying commission specifications,the artworks and their development can be seen to become moreisolated, and therefore potentially more vulnerable, within theoverall building programme.

Contractors Fabricating Artists' Designs

The artists did not have the technical language/expertise required to give the precise specifications for their works to be costed and fabricated by a contractor. They were used to making work themselves and to having a hands-on role, testing materials and forms as part of the process. It is possible that the high quotations of the contractors were due to the non-standard nature of the specifications. Liza Gough Daniels suggested that an earlier direct dialogue with the contractors may have been helpful in realising the works; for her the contractor proved to be an important source of knowledge on specialist techniques and individual craftsmen.

Induction and Training

During consultation on this study, many of the participants including the artists and Artpoint have commented on how much they have learned from the experience, and on the particular value of the preparatory workshops. Additional induction at this early stage on the practical issues relating to the design requirements of a major architectural scheme might have pre-empted some of the difficulties encountered due to lack of experience and expertise. This could include specifying work for costing by a contractor, budgeting processes, and scheduling of the building works.

Such knowledge or skills may be taken for granted by an architect or other design professionals, but may perhaps be entirely new to individual artists working for the first time on a major architectural scheme. The idea of handing over responsibility for the actual making of work to a contractor may be alien to the practice of an artist, and even specifying a work in a way that is concise and unambiguous to a contractor may require access to a specialist vocabulary and/or language.

In planning the development of ambitious commissions within major capital projects, it may be advisable - depending upon the nature of the commission - to incorporate and budget for training and/or professional assistance for artists in preparing detailed drawings and specifications. Delays in supplying such specifications can - as is demonstrated in this case - create serious disruption to a schedule, leading to a gradual separation of the commissions timetable from that of the overall scheme.

Team Building

It is a testament to the successes of the early team building process, that when major challenges arose during the procurement and construction stages, the Client, artists and Design Team were able to work constructively together, and made every effort to resolve individual problems and identify appropriate ways forward. Often where no practical contractual solution could be found, it was the degree of mutual respect and trust between the various partners that made it possible to proceed with an acceptable degree of risk.

© Copyright Jane Connarty 2002.