The architects of nightmares

Let’s say you’re an architect and a client commissions you to build a house. You sit down with him, ask him what he wants and he says he’s after three, three-bedroom Victorian terraces.

Fair enough, you do your research, find out what Victorian terraces look like, add your own twist and present your design.

He doesn’t like it.

First off, he doesn’t want to build all three terraced houses now, he wants to just build one and see how it goes. Okay, fair enough, so you alter the designs so that the first house is free-standing but can link onto two more in the future.

He doesn’t like it.

He wants the house to be completely stand-alone with windows on all four sides. When it comes time to build the other houses, if he ever bothers, he’ll worry about that then. You point out convincing a house owner to pretend they never had windows after you’ve removed them might not go down to well, but he’s adamant and he’s the client, so you do as you’re asked.

He still doesn’t like it.

It’s too old-fashioned. For starters, a pointed roof? What’s that about? No one wants pointed roofs any more. Flat roofs, that’s where it’s at. You point out flat roofs aren’t very Victorian, but he’s not interested. And those sash windows, they have to go – he wants floor to ceiling glass walls on two sides. In fact, he’s seen these Scandinavian kit-houses and he wants you to make his Victorian, three bedroom, non-terraced terrace to look more like them.

This is when you realise he has no idea what a Victorian, three-bedroom house, looks like and actually he wants a modern, free-standing, kit house. Okay, so you redesign the whole thing and he’s happy.

Except, he needs more bedrooms. He’s met this woman he wants to sleep with and he thinks adding an extra bedroom especially for her will impress her enough to open her legs. And, come to think of it, a fifth bedroom would look good in the adverts, so add that. But don’t make the house any bigger … or the existing rooms any smaller.

One feat of Gallifreyan engineering later and he’s happy with the design. It’s amazing, the best design ever. And he hires a Project Manager to supervise the build.

The first the thing the Project Manager does is complain it isn’t a Victorian, three-bedroom, terrace and insists you fix it. He thinks you’re an idiot who can’t design a house since the client is insisting he asked you for a Victorian terrace in the first place and has the emails to prove it.

Fair enough, so you resubmit the original design and everyone’s happy.

For about five minutes.

The Project Manager has some new ideas. The downstairs arrangement of rooms – living room, dining room, kitchen … it’s all been done before. Let’s move them around a bit. You point out people expect the dining room to be next to the kitchen so they can move dinner easily from one room to the other. The project Manager disagrees. Let’s shake up people’s expectations – let’s put all three rooms next to each other! Presumably he means in some kind of triangle so that’s what you do. Sadly that means the front door has to open onto one of the rooms, so you do that and you put the staircase in the middle.

Apparently that’s wrong and only proves you have no creative vision. The Project Manager has had a better idea. What if the kitchen is a separate building in the garden … with no doors or windows! No one’s ever done that before!

You, politely, point out no one’s done it before because it’s fucking stupid; but the client is in awe of the Project Manager because the first project he managed won some awards and he is, therefore, a genius.

The fact his next six projects were shit and fell down within two weeks of being completed is neither here nor there. That first batch of awards proves he can deliver the goods.

So you move the kitchen into the garden and wall it off. The Project Manager thinks this adds a sense of mystery to the house. You think the only mystery is ‘why the fuck is the kitchen a detached building with no way in?’ But what do you know? You’re just an architect and therefore know nothing about actually building houses.

Some of the Project Manager’s other genius ideas involve turning the dining room into a block of ice, knocking all the bedrooms into one big space full of plastic rats and having hot and cold running piss in the bathroom instead of the normal, boring water.

By this point you’re considering resigning, but they keep promising you more money and the client wants to finance another house you’ve designed, one which is the best thing you’ve ever designed … so you swallow your pride, do the best job you can … and stick with it.

The Project Manager hires his builders. Some of them are good, some of them … not so good. Still, as long as they follow the (mostly ridiculous) plans, it should be at worst adequate. And who knows, maybe the Project Manager is a genius? The builders certainly seem to think so, so do the electricians and the plumbers so … maybe you’re wrong?

During the build, the Project Manager tells the builders not to pay too much attention to the plans. Try not to stick too closely to the boring straight lines with one brick straddling the two below – improvise, go wild, have some fun with it.

The result barely resembles a house. Some of the builders have stuck to the plans, but their walls don’t meet up with the guy next to them who’s decided to build a tower of single bricks a mile high. Another builder has built in a circle and has accidentally walled himself in. The electricians do the best they can, but since part of the Project Manager’s vision is ‘no switches, no sockets, no wires’ they’re a bit hamstrung and have wasted three times the budget trying to replicate Tesla’s ‘electricity through the air’ experiments.

In the end, they give up and the house is declared finished without electricity.

The plumbers have a slightly worse time when they all contract hepatitis B and die.

Still, the house is finished and professional courtesy prevents you from publicly declaring the Project Manager to be an incompetent twat so you smile about it in public and swear never to work with him again in private.

When the house is sold, the percentage of the profits you were promised never materialises because they spent seven times the price of the house on advertising.

Which didn’t work.

The adventurous couple who eventually buy the house are killed when it collapses.

But fuck it, you still have the original design – that’s your product, that’s what you’re selling. You can prove the finished house has nothing to do with you, but the worst bit, the absolute worst bit of the whole experience, is when the building inspectors come round to look at it, they declare it’s the worst design ever and take out adverts in the paper claiming it’s all your fault DESPITE NEVER, EVER HAVING ACTUALLY SEEN THE FUCKING PLANS.

I’m not trying to make a point here, just idly typing random words and musing on how different an architect’s life must be to that of a scriptwriters.

Poor bastards.

Categories: Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “The architects of nightmares

  1. Michael Cook

    Um.., is this, like, a metaphor…????

  2. Brilliant post.

    Shame about the movie. I blame the writer. The twat…

  3. You can’t fool me, Barron.

    I know this is just a thinly-veiled metaphor for working in the field of web design.

  4. stuartdonohoe

    How do you know so much about architecture and the building process? I thought you were in the habit of script writing.

  5. I’m a builder and empathise with this scenario, I console myself with the knowledge that things are much worse for people in other professions… take my screenwriter friend for example, he has similar problems but also has to fork out on train tickets to London every week..

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