If Architects Had To Work Like Web Programmers

This morning I saw a retweet of a tweet linking to a site republishing an article from a now defunct website which apparently couldn’t discern the source of the original post, and because I found the article amusing I decided to share it too. But before I could do that I wanted to have a little hunt to see if I couldn’t find out who the original author might have been because, you know, it’s nice to do things like that sometimes. Sometimes.

Via findfreegraphics.comUsing Google’s date range searching I initially tracked the first instance back to the 30th November, 2000, and this article. That article referenced a link that no longer existed but thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine I was able to grab a copy from 2001.

Still no source cited so I was about to publish a copy when a thought occurred: as well-known and impressive as Google is when it comes to searching it’s not widely understood by the internet masses that it doesn’t search everything. In fact, it doesn’t even search very much of everything in the grand scheme of things. Add that to the fact that as it’s changed the way it ranks sites, sites have changed the way they present information. This means that if you’re looking for something really old you might sometimes be better off using an older search engine. Well, that was my excuse to try out some search engines of yesteryear and I’m sticking to it. As luck would have it, the first engine I tried was Excite‘s (this coming not long after I’d been reminiscing about its chat feature) and that very quickly led me to this page where the owner had fortunately saved me any more work by including the following information:

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April 2012: Marina Garrison emailed me to say that she has a hard copy from circa 2002, with David F. Leigh given as the author.

Nov 2012: Duane Parks emailed me to say:

I wrote this rant about 1981 while working as an Engineering Manager at NCR in Cambridge OH defining and designing new Retail Terminals. After returning from a high-level project review with company vice-presidents, I wrote this during a forty-minute rage and gave copies to a few people in my department. I did not sign the work, not wishing to jeopardize my position. By the next day, it had been posted on several bulletin boards.

The issues I wrote about are obviously common for creative people in all kinds of businesses and industries. I’m not sure how or when the rant made its way to the web. I discovered it there in the early 1990s. Every few years I google “1952 Gibson refrigerator” (my mother-in-law’s refrigerator) to see how many sites reference it. At this date its about 45,000 instances. That speaks to the permanence and prolificacy of the web, doesn’t it?

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And right now – as far as I can tell – that’s the only claim to the source I can find. So, unless later corrected, here’s Duane Parks’ long-lasting contribution to the internet and source of great amusement to anyone who’s ever worked on computer projects with trying clients:

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Dear Mr. Architect:

Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion. My house should have somewhere between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted. When you bring the blueprints to me, I will make the final decision of what I want. Also, bring me the cost breakdown for each configuration so that I can arbitrarily pick one.

Keep in mind that the house I ultimately choose must cost less than the one I am currently living in. Make sure, however, that you correct all the deficiencies that exist in my current house (the floor of my kitchen vibrates when I walk across it, and the walls don’t have nearly enough insulation in them).

As you design, also keep in mind that I want to keep yearly maintenance costs as low as possible. This should mean the incorporation of extra-cost features like aluminum, vinyl, or composite siding. (If you choose not to specify aluminum, be prepared to explain your decision in detail.)

Please take care that modern design practices and the latest materials are used in construction of the house, as I want it to be a showplace for the most up-to-date ideas and methods. Be alerted, however, that kitchen should be designed to accommodate, among other things, my 1952 Gibson refrigerator.

To insure that you are building the correct house for our entire family, make certain that you contact each of our children, and also our in-laws. My mother-in-law will have very strong feelings about how the house should be designed, since she visits us at least once a year. Make sure that you weigh all of these options carefully and come to the right decision. I, however, retain the right to overrule any choices that you make.

Please don’t bother me with small details right now. Your job is to develop the overall plans for the house: get the big picture. At this time,for example, it is not appropriate to be choosing the color of the carpet. However, keep in mind that my wife likes blue.

Also, do not worry at this time about acquiring the resources to build the house itself. Your first priority is to develop detailed plans and specifications. Once I approve these plans, however, I would expect the house to be under roof within 48 hours.

While you are designing this house specifically for me, keep in mind that sooner or later I will have to sell it to someone else. It therefore should have appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers. Please make sure before you finalize the plans that there is a consensus of the population in my area that they like the features this house has. I advise you to run up and look at my neighbor’s house he constructed last year. We like it a great deal. It has many features that we would also like in our new home, particularly the 75-foot swimming pool. With careful engineering, I believe that you can design this into our new house without impacting the final cost.

Please prepare a complete set of blueprints. It is not necessary at this time to do the real design, since they will be used only for construction bids. Be advised, however, that you will be held accountable for any increase of construction costs as a result of later design changes.

You must be thrilled to be working on as an interesting project as this! To be able to use the latest techniques and materials and to be given such freedom in your designs is something that can’t happen very often. Contact me as soon as possible with your complete ideas and plans.

PS: My wife has just told me that she disagrees with many of the instructions I’ve given you in this letter. As architect, it is your responsibility to resolve these differences. I have tried in the past and have been unable to accomplish this. If you can’t handle this responsibility, I will have to find another architect.

PPS: Perhaps what I need is not a house at all, but a travel trailer. Please advise me as soon as possible if this is the case.

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Author: Mark

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