Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Again?!? Really?

I was reading a college assessment report last week, and one of the lines they quoted was a bit of folk wisdom: If all you ever do is all you ever done, then all you'll ever get is what you already got.

I've already written about Jack Nasar's book Competition by Design, in which he showed how invited competitions almost always result in disastrous buildings. I think that book was published in 1999, so we've had ten years to learn from it. But no... Michigan State's new Zaha Hadid art museum, budgeted for $40 million, came in at first estimates of about four times that (and the firms that created estimates said that they really didn't want to do the building, because they were pretty sure they couldn't make it work). They'd have to heat the roof, because they couldn't figure out any way to control the snow load. (East Lansing, Michigan, latitude 44 degrees north, annual mean snowfall ~50 inches. I mean, they could have just called me for help; at $125 per hour, that information would have cost the design team about $6.40 .)

I can't put much of the blame for this one on Hadid and her office. After all, when children learn that tantrums work, they employ that strategy. When starchitects learn that they don't get called out for being ridiculous, why should they have any incentive to change? This is the client's fault start to finish.

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