Little suffering –

When I look outside from my still very much used home workplace, there is a building under construction in the middle of my field of vision. It’s a transformation, to be exact, for which the design was made by a highly respected architectural firm. The published 3D images promised a tasteful, clean design and I was happy with the end result. But something is not right, it seems.

The building is easy to describe: a simple rectangular volume of six floors, deep-lying strip windows packed with parapets made of gray natural stone over a transparent plinth. There will be shops at the bottom, and a hotel above it. On the roof, which I overlook, the impression showed a restrained and minimalist L-shaped pavilion surrounded by greenery. Probably the breakfast room of the future.

As the building grew, there were deviations from the advertised image. First, the roof pavilion was given a staggered roof instead of the uniform height that had been projected, exactly where the transparent breakfast room – presumably – changes into an installation room. So, when they returned home after a week away, the high roof seemed to have been adorned with a large chimney or air outlet. The colossus is made of galvanized steel, has striking round shapes and in other words could hardly stand out more strongly against the building below. No matter where you are in the area, it turns out to be impossible to does not to see.

You can imagine how it could have gone. Choices made too late in the catering concept, due to the fact that the necessary installations no longer fit into their loft. Maybe it’s the ceiling – against better knowledge? – the sign was too small from the start and no one sounded the alarm in time. A single line on the installation drawing that actually turned out to represent a giant chimney. Discussions and reproaches, extra costs of course, someone shouting that if it can not be done as it should, then it should be done as it can; the delivery date must be adhered to. The architect makes a proposal to, after all, make something out of it and give the whole a new credibility in the light of changed circumstances, but this is rejected on the basis of the even further rising costs (where has the ‘unforeseen’ gone out of the way ??) immediately set aside. Is he okay now?

I once had a discussion with a young colleague who, at high and low, insisted that as an architect you are not worth a beat if it happens to yourself. Granted; years ago, I myself may have felt some joy over similar incidents. I now have no problem admitting how recognizable – unfortunately – such situations are and especially how painful. You have worked together for years on this, only to stumble with the finish line in sight and end up with something that no one can be really and completely satisfied with.

Apparently, little has happened on the construction site in recent weeks. The façade completion of the roof pavilion has not yet been completed. What has changed: the chimney is now wrapped in orange tarpaulin, apparently for protection. Is something still going on? Or will the monster still have a function somewhere else?

I certainly hope there is a solution somehow. Not because of my point of view, but because of the symbolism I read in it. Everyone knows and feels that the world is not in good shape right now. Larger power blocs collide, people die and are displaced, in the background the slower threat from climate and … great tech† One would hope that at least such a modest construction project can still be brought to a good and satisfactory conclusion by all involved jointly. So something emerges that everyone, perhaps especially in the face of uncertainty and misery, can be proud of. However?

Joost Ector is the architect director for Ector Hoogstad Architecten. Every month, Joost Ector writes a column for Architectenweb, in which he talks about the development that affects the architectural profession.

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