New Year - Design or Project Management

January 6, 2022

New year, finding words is a challenge, these first days with so much potential, trying to dodge all the standard tropes and mind-ruts.

I’ve read, am reading, two large books this season.  First book was about a terrible architect, in every sense of the adjective, who was written about for his profound sense of project management.  The second book, and maybe I’m halfway through, is about an architect, with an exceptional and defining style, the style in fact that captured me in 3rd year college, for what architecture can be, and what it can create in the world – and a profound absence of concern for project management.

And, or course, that’s the daily dialogue.  If anyone asks what it’s like to be an architect, what we do all day, that’s precisely the duality.  I try to think about percentages, I try to think about chickens-and-eggs.  In this new year, I want to cling to intentionality! But intention concedes to time management, and the phone rings, and there you are, managing yourself, managing your calendar, fitting your projects in their place. And when does design happen, what is the schedule for design? Design happens when someone comes to my desk and says, “What should we do?” Design happens when I don’t like what we bring into the conference room, and I say, “Let’s do something else.”

That’s not true, the last sentence is entirely untrue.  When we show up in a conference room, design has happened and anything I add at that point is either additive or entirely unsupported by the proof already on the table. I love watching design already in play, when I’m on stage, I’m nervous, like an ostrich pulling its head out of the sand, but I always enjoy sitting in the audience, cheering on the man event when it debuts.

So, design or project management.  Both happen, both have to happen, I want to do design more.  Some would say that if you have to choose between the two, you’re not going to get where you’re trying to go. I say that it’s about wearing all the hats n the business, doing the tasks that you would sub-out if you could, that you will sub-out in the future, when this double-life turns a profit.

The second book, it should be conceded, is an architect who was already subsidized, who had no worry about cash flow, who financed his own concerns. And, in truth, that’s the task of project management, cash management in the operations of design. And we all know there’s more to do. When we watch the books, we wait for our chance to draw.