Funding cut off dictates museum time frame

ARCHITECTS interested in designing Orange’s new museum have criticised the “very short time frame” and “very open brief” they have been given to come up with plans for the $7 million project.

Orange City Council advertised the tender for the architectural designs from December 21 and more than 60 organisations have expressed their interest in the project.

About 40 architects and community members attended a site briefing yesterday but many of the architects questioned why tenders closed on February 1.

One architect said the short time frame and broad brief was “not the basis of a good working relationship”.

Another was also concerned and said it would be difficult to get a geotechnical report completed in time.

“Given the time frame and the uncertainties it’s going to be hard for council to get the right answers,” he said.

But community and cultural services director Scott Maunder said he was still confident council would receive a lot of high-quality submissions despite the architects’ concerns.

“We are trying not to be too prescriptive about design and the usage of the space and leave it up to the people’s imagination and creativity,” he said.

He defended the February cut-off date saying council wanted to meet the fourth round of the federal government’s Regional Development Australia (RDA) funding before it closes in April.

Council has allocated $2 million to the project, expects to raise $1 million through corporate and community sponsorship and hopes the rest will be topped up by the government.

Some community members in the packed briefing session suggested council should wait for the next round of funding instead of rushing the designs but Mr Maunder said  council wasn’t sure there would be any more funding.

“We don’t know who the [federal] government next year will be and what they’ll think of the funding,” he told the meeting.

“We want to try and achieve the best we can with the money we have available.”

The $7 million budget for the museum will cover the building and the fitout costs which Mr Maunder said would start at $3500 per square metre.

The brief for the designs calls for at least 600-square metres of exhibition space - more than double the amount in plans drawn up in 2010 - suggesting the museum’s fitout alone could cost $2.1 million.

Mr Maunder told the architects council was yet to decide how the space would be used or what artefacts it would include.

He said council had now moved away from a “fully integrated” facility but would still encourage architects to have “linkages” between all the current buildings and be mindful of potential expansion in the future.

The visitors’ centre was expected to be the “front of house” for the museum but could be demolished and rebuilt.

“It’s the number one capital project for council this year,” he said.

After the tenders close they will be evaluated by a panel including museum advisors, an architect, council staff and a representative from the museum working party.

A report from the working party will then go to council on February 19.

Rough concept plans could be presented to the working party within three weeks after the tender is awarded and another presentation will occur before the draft plans are submitted for RDA funding.

The draft plans will then go on public display for feedback.

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