At the beginning of the month Bre Pettis and Kio Stark created the Cult of the Done Manifesto. I’ll let you go there and read it yourself, but the basic summary of the list is to fail fast, fail often and don’t shoot for perfection…shoot for production, of any sort.
It seems like people have been talking about this issue for years. All you need is a Rubik’s cube diagram to turn it into a “15 minutes of web fame” meme. The reason I’m writing about this is that the idea of finding the core of an idea and pushing it to any stage of completion as quick as possible was discussed in an interview with Joost van Brug back in 2006.
Van Brug’s description of the ‘Dutch model’ is similar to the ‘cult of the done:’ take the idea you came up with in five seconds and finish that idea. Don’t work it hard, improve it, revise it, et cetera … just finish it.
These two views of the same fundamental mentality describe a problem I find myself running into with parts of how architectural work is produced. Too many times we loose track of the impetus of our idea because of how projects are developed. We produce scheme A, scheme B and scheme C, gaining feedback and consensus on each during various client and civic committee meetings. From there we refine and revise and gain more feedback. End the end, I’d say that we generally find ourselves far away from the core of the idea that excited everyone about the project.
I use the word generally because in many instances, great architecture is produced by a team of very diverse people with very diverse concerns and agendas that get addressed as the project moves towards completion. I guess I just find frustration when making the project “financially viable” is such a driving concern. “Financially viable” for who exactly? When making the project work from a “flexible retail market” perspective is the ‘concept,’ I have low expectations. Because as designers we’ve been asked to think outside of the box, yet in reality, all they are asking for is extraordinary wrapping paper. Sometimes I ask myself, why do we need to think outside of the box, maybe we just need a better box?
What does this all mean. Maybe the fail fast, production first model is fine when what you do is of a temporary nature. But a building, or the fabric of a city? Do we want our buildings to be flashy facade experiments where “failing fast and failing often,” is our primary method of production? I don’t know the right answer. We need experimentation, and we need developers and city planners who are willing to take risks so that our environments can move forward. I think we do need to find methods of making quick work of our ideas; as long as those ideas deal with fundamental changes in the way our built environment is thought about, used and inhabited. If not, take the time to make a damn nice box.