Enterprise Transformation

A Pragmatic Approach Using POET


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Many times when explaining what Architecture is, people use the building analogy. Imagine you built a house without a master plan, by continuously adding and changing it over a long period of time without a broad plan of what you were doing. You might end up with something like this:

¨      160 rooms, 40 bedrooms and 2 ballrooms.

¨      47 fireplaces, 10,000 window panes, 17 chimneys

¨      2 basements, three elevators.

¨      Doors and stairways that lead nowhere

¨      Steam and forced-air heating

¨      Push-button gas lights

The Winchester Mystery House is a well-known California mansion that was under construction continuously for 38 years. It once was the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester, but is now a tourist attraction. Under Sarah Winchester's day-to-day guidance, its "from-the-ground-up" construction proceeded around-the-clock, without interruption, from 1884 until her death on September 5, 1922.

The mansion is renowned for its size and utter lack of any master building plan and is often used as a perfect  example of bad Architecture. In fact, it is a perfect example of good Architecture! How come I hear you cry?

The story goes that after her husband’s death, Sarah Winchester became obsessed by the all the ghosts from the people her husbands guns had killed. Having consulted a (very wily) clairvoyant (with good connections to building companies!), she was told that the ghosts needed to be “deflected” if they came through windows and doors and the only way to stop them was to confuse them by putting doors on walls the led nowhere, etc. Unfortunately that meant the ghost were deflected so another false door or internal window was needed…. Etc, etc, etc. Think of it as Feng Shui on Acid!

The point is this.

Any “good” architecture ONLY EXISTS to fulfil a customer’s needs.

It does not exist to “look” nice (unless that’s what the customer wants of course!).

In general, “good” architecture tends to “look” nice, but the key thing for people to understand is to concentrate on satisfying the client, not making perfect pretty architectures.

This building, although totally “crazy” and “wrong” to some peoples eyes, is actually “perfect” in the clients eyes, hence, by definition, its “good” architecture.

A little piece of trivia - A film “Winchester” (released in 2018) staring Helen Mirren, tells a dramatized story of Sarah Winchester and the house. Although the film shows a lot of the houses interior, very little filming took place at the actual mansion.



Questions to ponder...

Can you think of other architectures that are actually good but look terrible?

What is a better architecture for roads? The USA system of perpendicular roads with many crossroads and single roads between places or the British system that is more akin to a redundant network?

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