Monday, June 30, 2014

Architecture Purity

What would you get if you put a drop of sewage in a barrel of wine? 

Pretty much the same thing you’d have if you put a drop of wine in a barrel of sewage. i.e.  sewage.  Personally, I wouldn’t drink from either barrel. There is something to be said about contamination, even a tiny bit of it, rendering a solution as sewage.

We should always strive for perfection, especially in wine and art, or even in architecture. That being said, we can get carried away with the notion that architecture exists in only two states; perfection and sewage. While we should strive for perfection and avoid sewage, we should accept any endeavor that causes a state which is an improvement over a previous state.

In the Architecture Review Board we’ve seen hundreds of solution proposals going back almost ten years. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one that was considered perfect. I like to say that every solution has “an ugly” and that you want to try to minimize the uglies, and if possible, put all the uglies in a single spot (a drop of sewage?).

Still, we hear from some architects that “it’s not perfect.” “It could be better.” They’ll say, “The ARB should not approve an imperfect architecture.”  OK, let’s stop business while we (A) argue over the definition of perfection, (B) find the funds, timeline, and resources to accomplish the as yet undefined perfection, and (C) convince the rest of our market space, including all our vendors to stop innovating because that tends to change the details of the still undefined “perfection.”

Or how about this; let’s define road maps.  A road map offers a series of incremental improvements over time that allow us to change with market and technology conditions so that we advance both the business capability as well as the architectural soundness.  That might not sound as bold as “Re-write from scratch” but it has the added advantage of being continually re-accessible - you can correct your course based on the prevailing and changing conditions.

We should value perfection, but we should value improvement even more.  Road maps enable a team to achieve improvement while remaining flexible to market dynamics.  Hmm, sounds almost perfect.

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