Defining the vision is the crucial first step every Owner must start with. You must know the core values, goals, and where your business/organization/ministry is going before determining what kind of building will fulfill those needs. Your vision will govern every decision you make and will save you both time and money. Tackling a huge project like building planning can often feel overwhelming. When looking at an undertaking like this, the question people usually ask is, “Where do I begin?” Often, people wrongly assume that the first item to discuss is the floor plan. This assumption is a significant misconception. The floor plan, like any other piece of this giant puzzle, is only a tool. Many decisions have to be made before moving to the stage of floor plans. At times, we meet with a leader and learn they have a floor plan sketched and “ready for drafting.” However, to draw a floor plan prior to an in-depth conversation about the mission is putting the cart far before the horse.
WHY START WITH VISION?
In the first architectural firm I worked with, the office had a golden rule: “Only draw something if you are 100% sure what it is and how it works.” What this rule meant was that employees should never draw line on details, sections, and plans without knowing what materials were involved, because major construction problems could occur. Over the years, I have seen the significance of this rule and how many setbacks and failures it prevents. Today, one of our firm’s rules is,
“We don’t draw before we know the vision.” We have to know what the master game plan is!
Your primary objective and first task should be to answer these types of questions:
- Where are we going?
- Where do we want to be 20 years from now?
Next, think of what that situation might look like physically if those goals were to be accomplished. In order to achieve that vision, what should you do today? What we’ve have just described is the basic thinking behind master planning.
While considering your master plan, keep this in mind: even the best-laid plans will change. Your plan is going to evolve. You will spend countless hours articulating your visions, and your architect will finally put pen to paper on a scheme you love. But you won’t draw up a master plan and then eventually build that exact master plan. You will instead draw a master plan to create a framework and cast your vision, and then you will adapt it with each new step. Seven years later, when you’re in phase three of your growth and looking back at the original master plan, you will see differences. Sometimes, people think, “We already master planned, and we have to stick to that exact plan.” To adopt this mindset is shortsighted, though, because drawings are just tools. Master planning is a thoughtful, educated, vision-casting exercise, with the understanding that the translation of that vision will certainly change over time. While you are considering the long-term facility needs of your business or organization, now is also the time to re-evaluate your vision. So what does this mean in terms of practical steps?
HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR OWN VISION?
Let’s explore more of what the word “vision” mean and implies. The type of vision we are discussing is not so much experiential as it is strategic. Vision anticipates and acts in preparation for what is to come. Vision is at once creative and yet informed, vivid and sober at the same time. To create a vision in the early stages (or to push yourself to understand your vision better, or to re-evaluate your vision), you will have to put details aside for a season, in search of a strong, big picture definition.
If you are not by nature “visionary,” and even if you are, a list of thought-provoking questions can help you define exactly what the vision may be. Once you are able to articulate these thoughts to others (even if it means just reading it from a list you’ve compiled!), you are in a much better place to make decisions about facilities, which would best serve your intended users.
Now, do remember that human beings are involved. People, and architects, can get swept away in the moment of trying to design a beautiful building. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who truly desires an ugly facility. What it will come down to is priorities. As building planning and design develop, needs begin to grow and costs inevitably go up. When there is an issue, think about the vision. Which solution best fulfills the overall vision? In 90% of the cases you encounter, answering this question solves your problem and provides you with the clarification you need. It is vitally important that your vision for your facility is aligned with your purpose.
WHICH SOLUTION BEST FULFILLS THE OVERALL VISION?
As you are defining your vision, consider having a conversation with your architect. Architects by their very nature are not only detail-oriented, but visionaries. But in order for them to apply that skill of vision, they have to know your purpose. Their talent is to create how your facilities can best work for your purposes, and their visionary abilities make it possible for them to conceptualize exactly how your purpose would translate into reality. Ultimately, they will solve the puzzle between your needs, your budget, and all the idiosyncrasies, which make up construction and design.
WHAT WILL YOUR BUILDING LOOK LIKE?
How will your facility look once it is built? What you first need to identify is the driving factor for this decision. By now, you can probably guess that your vision will be the driver. But what does that mean in practical application, and how does it translate into concrete decisions? The key to determining the look of the building is to first decide how you want people to feel. One of the first things we ask our customers to do is think for a bit and then tell us the five words that describe how they want people to feel in their space. It is then our job to use the built environment to accomplish those goals. Here are some of our most common customer goals:
- “We want them to feel welcome.”
- “We want them to feel comfortable.”
- “We want them to know we are growing.”
- “We want them to feel safe.”
- “We want them to feel cared for.”
In our company, these words are the drivers for every decision we make about aesthetics. Research tell us what types of colors and materials yield feelings—by pairing this research with general preferences, we are able to create a trusted, authentic recipe for design decisions.
So, remember, VISION IS WHERE IT BEGINS… start thinking! If any questions come to my mind, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org