December 13, 2005

If architects had to work like programmers

(More old mail - John Dale sent me this in September 2000 - but it's timeless)

Dear Mr. Architect:
Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need,
so you should use your discretion. My house should have somewhere
between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such
that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted. When you bring the
blueprints to me, I will make the final decision of what I want. Also,
bring me the cost breakdown for each configuration so that I can
arbitrarily pick one.

Keep in mind that the house I ultimately choose must cost less than the
one I am currently living in. Make sure, however, that you correct all
the deficiencies that exist in my current house (the floor of my kitchen
vibrates when I walk across it, and the walls don't have nearly enough
insulation in them).

As you design, also keep in mind that I want to keep yearly maintenance
costs as low as possible. This should mean the incorporation of
extra-cost features like aluminum, vinyl, or composite siding. (If you
choose not to specify aluminum, be prepared to explain your decision in
detail.)

Please take care that modern design practices and the latest materials
are used in construction of the house, as I want it to be a showplace
for the most up-to-date ideas and methods. Be alerted, however, that the
kitchen should be designed to accommodate, among other things, my 1952
Gibson refrigerator.

To insure that you are building the correct house for our entire family,
make certain that you contact each of our children, and also our
in-laws. My mother-in-law will have very strong feelings about how the
house should be designed, since she visits us at least once a year. Make
sure that you weigh all of these options carefully and come to the right
decision. I, however, retain the right to overrule any choices that you
make.

Please don't bother me with small details right now. Your job is to
develop the overall plans for the house: get the big picture. At this
time, for example, it is not appropriate to be choosing the color of the
carpet. However, keep in mind that my wife likes blue.

Also, do not worry at this time about acquiring the resources to build
the house itself. Your first priority is to develop detailed plans and
specifications. Once I approve these plans, however, I would expect the
house to be under roof within 48 hours.

While you are designing this house specifically for me, keep in mind
that sooner or later I will have to sell it to someone else. It
therefore should have appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers.
Please make sure before you finalize the plans that there is a consensus
of the population in my area that they like the features this house has.
I advise you to run up and look at my neighbor's house he constructed
last year. We like it a great deal. It has many features that we would
also like in our new home, particularly the 75-foot swimming pool. With
careful engineering, I believe that you can design this into our new
house without impacting the final cost.

Please prepare a complete set of blueprints. It is not necessary at this
time to do the real design, since they will be used only for
construction bids. Be advised, however, that you will be held
accountable for any increase of construction costs as a result of later
design changes.

You must be thrilled to be working on as an interesting project as this!
To be able to use the latest techniques and materials and to be given
such freedom in your designs is something that can't happen very often.
Contact me as soon as possible with your complete ideas and plans.

PS: My wife has just told me that she disagrees with many of the
instructions I've given you in this letter. As architect, it is your
responsibility to resolve these differences. I have tried in the past
and have been unable to accomplish this. If you can't handle this
responsibility, I will have to find another architect.

PPS: Perhaps what I need is not a house at all, but a travel trailer.
Please advise me as soon as possible if this is the case.


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