Barry and Gail Lord talk to WAN about the importance of cultural planning and staying ahead of the competition
Thus far in our interview series we have concentrated on architecture and design studios. Taking a different tack, this week we spoke to Lord Cultural Resources, a practice specialising in creating cultural capital. Headed by Gail and Barry Lord, the firm has more than 60 cultural planning professionals across offices in Toronto, New York, Paris, Mumbai and Beijing. The firm has recently completed a cultural plan for Chicago and was instrumental in initiating the Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Lord Cultural Resources was founded in Canada in 1981, branching out into Europe after three years and Asia three years after that. In 1996 the team found a footing in Saudi Arabia and is currently working on cultural projects in Dubai and Doha, as well as the King Abdulaziz Center for World Cultures in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
Knowledge sharing plays an important role in the workings of Lord Cultural Resources, who affirm that ‘not content with walking the walk, we also talk the talk’. The company engages in teaching and lecturing around the world, and has published a five-volume series of ‘Manuals’ which are used in educational courses in many countries, with one book translated into Chinese, Georgian, Spanish and Russian.
Providing a unique experience
Our continuing growth both in the quality and depth of our work and in our geographic range (56 countries) indicates that we fill a gap in the market. Culture is about the creation of meaning in many different forms. In the 21st century more and more people are engaged with the creation of meaning and our unique expertise is to help people, communities, cities and institutions such as museums create dynamic and viable places of meaning and innovation where people share ideas and experiences.
Staying ahead of the competition
Right from the beginning of the firm we have believed in the value of sharing our ideas with the world. We participate in conferences and we teach in colleges and universities. We established ‘Lord Academy’ as a mechanism for offering these services and as an umbrella for our intern program. So by being interconnected and in dialogue with our sector - we ‘stay ahead’.
We have a strong brand and so we receive many RFPs. With more than a thousand clients (and 2000+ projects) we have repeat business. We depend on internet procurement channels like WAN to stay abreast new developments. WAN is the premiere source for procurement for international development projects in the cultural sector.
The importance of cultural planning
Cities of all sizes everywhere need cultural planning. Cultural planning today is no longer just an inventory of ‘great cultural assets’, it is an inventory of people’s cultural needs and aspirations. The number one priority for every Chicago neighbourhood in the 22 we consulted was more art in the schools. And this is something the Mayor delivered on. We came up with a whole new approach called ‘planning culturally’ whereby every city department (sewers, roads, health, parks and library as well as culture) are responsible for implementing the plan - thereby broadening the budget in challenging economic times. Joy Bailey Bryant, Director in our New York office, leads our cultural planning work email@example.com
Chicago Architecture Biennial
Chicago has a particularly strong tradition giving birth to the Skyscraper and the Prairie School of architecture by giants like Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. This tradition continues today with Millennium Park, surely the most successful park created in this generation. Chicago continues to be home for innovative architects like Jeanne Gang and creative builders such as Theaster Gates. Its waterfront is world famous and it has a stunning collection of Mies buildings.
The Biennial will be organized by Chicago’s brilliant Commissioner of Culture Michelle Boone and her team and we plan to continue to help them. They have chosen two excellent curators Sarah Herda (Director of the Graham Foundation) and Joseph Grima (of Domus magazine). The Biennial will target both industry professionals and the general public. There will be a special focus on architecture students.
We don’t yet know what the curators will decide - but in the visioning sessions that we lead as part of the cultural plan people wanted an interdisciplinary approach that would focus on solving the challenges of environmental sustainability and urban life.