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Cultural Infrastructures: Four Conditions for Project Success

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For cities, cultural life is a powerful driver of development. Here are the winning elements of an infrastructure overhaul.

Culture is an essential part of every community and a powerful engine for community development. It is simultaneously a vector of social transformation, economic growth, territorial development and improvement of citizens’ quality of life.

Culture increases the feeling of belonging to a community and acts as an attraction factor for a territory. For all these reasons, ensuring the cultural vitality of our municipalities is essential.

To achieve this, it is important to have cultural infrastructures that are continually evolving. Building public libraries, performance halls and exhibition centres means providing meeting places for artists, cultural organizations, citizens and visitors. But it also means enhancing our heritage treasures and giving our cities a strong identity.

In a context of obsolete municipal buildings, increased interregional migration and widening demographic gaps, many cities must rethink their cultural infrastructures.

Four issues worth highlighting

When developing cultural infrastructure projects, consider four main issues.

Culture

To assess the necessity of a cultural infrastructure project, you must first understand the local context it will evolve in and conduct a diagnosis to identify the community’s real needs.

You can do this through cultural mapping and public consultations. It is important to ensure that the project you want to develop reflects a common vision and complements the existing cultural offering.

This is all the more necessary since, in some cases, you need to consider taking the lead to design an innovative project from scratch.

Territory

To successfully integrate into its environment, a cultural infrastructure must be coherent and relevant to the territory where it is to be built.

A project’s coherence requires an architecture that respects and enhances the natural environment, heritage context and urban planning. Its relevance is defined by its integration into the social and urban fabric.

Economics

A cultural infrastructure project must be grounded in the economic context. In a precarious economic situation, it is often difficult to move forward: construction costs soar, funding becomes difficult to secure and public opinion is often critical.

At the same time, cultural infrastructure can have the power to function as an engine for economic revitalisation and constitute an opportunity rather than a constraint.

Quality of life

The success of a cultural project depends on a community’s engagement. The social acceptability of a project is usually achieved when you have considered the three previous issues. However, social acceptability increases when you take time to consult a wide range of actors and sectors in addition to the cultural sector.

Ultimately, a project’s benefits will speak to its viability. Visiting a cultural facility is a way for people to exercise their cultural citizenship, broaden their minds, improve their quality of life and increase their sense of belonging to their municipality.

Four conditions for success

Based on our experience with many different approaches and by analyzing the successes and failures of other projects, we have identified four elements that contribute to success.

An innovative project

A cultural infrastructure project must of course meet a need and create value. But above all, it must be inspiring and express a desire for novelty. Its innovative nature must inspire a community to dream. People are only too keen to support an ambitious vision!

A multi-issue solution

Cultural infrastructure projects are typically led by cultural professionals who have a well-defined objective. But to convince a community, stakeholders and elected officials, these projects must simultaneously address several needs, including social, urban or economic revitalisation issues. While this broadened approach will certainly be more complex, it will also be highly beneficial.

Strong leadership

Successful major projects are led by unifying, credible and persevering promoters. Project governance requires rigorous process management by seasoned professionals. Yet, the vision and determination of an inspirational leader is what will drive a project to succeed and rally all parties.

A project that strengthens a territory’s identity

A successful cultural infrastructure contributes to a territory’s vitality while enhancing its specific features and respecting its core values. A cultural infrastructure contributes to citizens’ sense of belonging and acts as an attractiveness factor by creating friendly and innovative living environments.

Pay attention to governance

To the above issues and conditions for success, we must add project governance. Good governance cannot save a bad project, but bad governance can kill a good project! From the outset, you must pay particular attention to defining the appropriate decision-making bodies and management mechanisms.

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