M.I.T. and Gehry

MIT is suing Frank Gehry for design flaws.  Frank Gehry who is one of the most renowned architects of our time.  My hat goes off to MIT.  Perhaps this lawsuit will force other architects to take a look at not only the final product but how the product works, how is it going to be possible to build, what are the structural possibilities, etc.

It is wonderful to see so many architects pushing the envelope to create exciting and different structures but can the contractors actually build them so that they are livable, don’t leak, air flows properly through them, the fabrications chosen have longevity based on the use of the building, etc.  I could ask a million questions.

There are many pieces of a puzzle when one builds a building.  Every one has their own set of skill sets that they bring to the project but there should be at least some understanding from an architect about the contractors expertise or any piece of the puzzles (subs etc) job.  What will really cost to build, what type of fabrics make sense, how will people live in it and how can a contractor actually build my vision.  That is where the disconnect happens. 

I always use the analogy to explain the disconnect between the architect and the contractor to people who have never been through the process before by explaining how to make a garment.  When you make a garment, it might appear to take only a yard of fabric but when you lay out the pattern and based on the width of the fabric, you realize that it actually take 2 yards not one to create the vision.  Architects see, contractors build. 

When you build a project, many times people start with an architect.  Then the architect helps you hire a contractor once the plans have been signed off on.  That is when you get out of bed with the architect and get into bed with the contractor.  The contractor can take a look at the plans and tell you where the holes are.  Also,  many architects like to hire outside people to do their lighting plans or other parts of the project.  Make sure you sit down with any of the outside hires to describe your vision too.   You’ll have better plans.  The more holes in the plans, the more opportunities the contractor has to charge you extra because what they bid on isn’t what they are able to build.   I always recommend hiring an owners rep for a big project because if they are good, they will know if the plans are buttoned up.  An owners rep is like having your own in house lawyer.  They make sure everyone sticks to schedule and budget.  They are also experts who are only representing your needs.

Ok, I have obviously had some experience with this.  Yet, each project is another experience.  I can’t help but be thrilled to see MIT sue Gehry because we have had our share of architect ego.  It isn’t pretty.  I have heard a variety of tales about architect hell particularly a few doozies with other renowned architects.  BTW, when there are problems in actually executing the plans, the cost may go up and the only one paying for the mistakes are you.  At one point, you look at the architect and say what pain are you going to take for this?  Are we going to pay you less for your folly?  The answer would be no. 

The details about MIT suing Gehry are due to an huge amount of money that MIT has had to pay to fix the problems due to design flaws.  Bravo to MIT.  Perhaps this law suit will set the wheels in motion for other ego maniacal architects that they will be held financially accountable for their poor vision and execution.

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