What is a masterplan?

What it is and how we do it

A masterplan is a document that provides a flexible conceptual layout to guide future development, setting out your ambitions for 5 years, 10 years, 20 years and beyond.

A masterplan tells the client the status quo, giving a whole-site view that no single person is likely to have. It summarises and evaluates the historical development of the site, which often feeds into what happens next. It marries a client’s vision with the physical constraints and opportunities the site offers, helping clients plan strategically and maximise their money and space.

It covers the buildings and the spaces around them, and it might cover more than you think: concerns such as wellbeing, accessibility and sustainability all go into a masterplan.

Masterplans are completely unique to each site and client, though there are often recurring themes: from making a good first impression to creating logical circulation, zoning, and putting things in the right places, such as deciding where the bins go (spoiler: they’re often in the wrong place). We have completed more than 30 masterplans and masterplan reviews for sites of all shapes and sizes, including:

ACS Egham, Surrey

Bedales School, Hampshire

Bedford Modern School, Bedford

CET Caister Academy, Norfolk

Chapelton of Elsick, Aberdeen (masterplanning six schools in a new town)

Godolphin & Latymer, London

Harold Hill Learning Village, Havering

King Alfred School, London - ‘critical friend’ to existing masterplan

The King’s School, Canterbury

Lady Eleanor Holles School

Magdalen College School, Oxford - masterplan review

Newnham College, University of Cambridge

North London Collegiate School

Pembroke College, University of Oxford

Ryde School, Isle of Wight

Somerset College, South Africa

St Paul’s Boys’ School, London - masterplan review and amendments

Wycombe Abbey School

A good masterplan balances strategic thinking with creative cleverness. We don’t want to give away our secrets, but our approach to masterplanning is rigorous, ambitious for our clients and collaborative. It’s difficult to write about masterplans without going into too much detail, and they’re not as glamorous to present as our buildings, so this section includes a few examples with key challenges and key moves.

We love working on masterplans because they are architectural puzzles worth solving; unlocking each site’s potential creates wonderful places for our clients to live, study and work.