Are there TOO Many Cultural Centers?

The TAUBMAN MUSEUM OF ART in Roanoke, Virginia, USA, one of the Case Studies of the Set in Stone Report.
Architects: Randall Stout Architects, Inc.; Associate Architects: Rodriguez Ripley Maddux Motley Architects.

In a word, yes.

While the Cultural Policy Center of the University of Chicago would never put it that way, that is essentially the conclusion of their “Set in Stone” Report, released today.

The Report, a consolidation of 15 years of research involving over 800 building projects and 500 organizations, gathered hard evidence to find out: what influences a cultural building’s success or failure? The question is a relevant one: between 1994 and 2008 there has been a building boom of performing arts centers, museums, and theaters in the U.S., costing cities billions of dollars. And unfortunately, supply has outrun demand.

The biggest problem the Report identifies is that cities and towns, many of which have recently experienced improved education/income and enthusiastically undertake these projects, often overestimate the actual need for these centers in their communities. Thus, when they run into financial difficulties (most do: over 80% of the projects surveyed ran over-budget, some up to 200%), the centers become economic drains rather than cultural boons.

In other words: Just because you build it, it doesn’t mean they will come.

So what does make for a successful Cultural Center? More after the break…