Thursday, April 23, 2015

What are buildings for?

Most of my project work has had something to do with buildings, or groups of buildings (my wider property portfolio work).

One of my 'lecturers' in architecture was Micha Bandini, who asked the memorable question 'what is architecture'? We all fluffed around with answers. She tried to help us by asking if a chair (a 'designed thing') was 'architecture'. We thought not, but I don't think anyone explained why. I don't even recall where the discussion got to, but given MB's arty-philosphy credentials, meaning that people and society figured little in her thinking as far as I could tell, I expect that any definition excluded what buildings are really for. I say 'buildings' because that's what they are. 'Architecture' is a practice, not a thing. It doesn't come in pieces, like chocolate.

I saw a good response to the question in the blog Life of an Architect:
The title of the post reminds me of a misunderstanding of architects' work that abounds in industry and commerce: that we 'draw up' buildings, as though someone else formulates the program, designs and develops it, considers the practicalities, brings the multiple professional disciplines to realise an effective 'socially significant shelter' as well as creates the spaces and enclosing form for meaningful human activity.

One page

Since the publication of the One-page Project Manager, there has been a bit of Internet effort to do the job. The idea of a 'dashboard' is similar, and I use such myself, but I don't know if the 'one-page' nut has been cracked yet.
Based on articles by Edward Tufte, I've had a go:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Guiding Prinicples 5: Stakeholder partnership

Establish personal connections with stakeholders based on leadership, trust, and credibility.

Relationships deliver projects, as they deliver anything in business. You have to be able to understand the motives and objectives of the people who are interested in the project to navigate the landscape they jointly create for the PM. The connections have to be personal and open: but not crazily open, cannily open is better as you feel you way about the different depths of trust and commitment throughout the project constellation.

I can understand how trust and credibility are at the table in this, but puzzled about ‘leadership’.

Leadership these days is a popular shibboleth for ‘I’m talking serious business, folks’. But I’m neither sure what it means in this context, or how it is applicable.

Maybe we operationalise this idea by directing communications and information flow, advice and insight, even views of the project ‘climate’ relevantly through the members of the project constellation (the ‘stakeholder’ group).

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Someone else's project

Not my project, but thoughts about another's project: Frank Gehry's brown paper bag at Ultimo in Sydney.

I'm not sure if I'm a 'fan' of Gehry's or not. Probably not, because I'd doubt that I'd be a 'fan' of any architect.

The building is impressive in some ways, with some of the emptiness of its impressiveness touched by Philip Drew in this review.

Just to note, I read Philip Drew's book Leaves of Iron; an essay on Glen Murcat's work. There were some nice touches in the book with its mentions of people, places and buildings that I knew well or had worked with, but I thought the writing pretentious and over-done. Drew's essay on Gehry much better, in my estimation.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Not too much, now.

A little while ago I wrote about documenting even the small jobs. A similar rubric is not to over-document.

I recently asked a team to prepare a project plan for a major piece of analysis on the performance of a $350m program that I direct. They diligently used our project planning template, but, alas, it was too much for the scope of the project and attracted unhelpful questions. Good questions, but ones that mislocated the intent of the project.

This was nothing dramatic, but it reminded me that the project plan has to be right-sized for the project scope and probably, if you want to apply a metric, for the dollars likely to be at risk in the project.