Every architect working on anything larger than the smallest house extension knows about the frustrations and inevitable compromises that result. Especially if the client is not that ideal person - the architect themself. When the time comes for attending the opening or picking up the awards, many practitioners are able to ignore the compromises for a while, but those nagging feelings often remain in the back of the head.
One cannot deny some projects are more problematic than others. At Nene Community Centre (Specifier's Choice, pages 9-22) there were a number of difficulties. These resulted from the too-familiar combination of an architect with a strong vision, a client who was strapped for cash and wanted to make their own decisions, and a contractor who was persuasive when making substitutions. The architect is therefore profoundly dissatisfied, although the users are doubtless happy to enjoy a facility that is far better than anything they had before.
You can see from the project's specification sheet (pages 14 and 16) which substitutions were made and how the architect felt about them. We have not published this from a desire to instigate some kind of miserable post-mortem, but as an insight into the minutiae of the struggles on a project. Most architects know about the privations experienced on their own projects, and hear about those of their friends, if only over a late-night drink. But one can be more dispassionate if reading about a relative stranger.
Our Specifier's Choice pieces should always help with the process of specification, providing inspiration and useful advice. This month you may also find some salutary lessons. And one of those, of course, should be that even when there are a lot of compromises and struggles, it is still possible to create a very good building. We all know that great clients make great buildings, but even without an ideal client-architect relationship, it is possible to achieve a great deal.