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Timescales deaden the art of creating a joyous building

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This is my first column. The thought of producing it every week is rather daunting when one considers that I have spent a lifetime (at least my life so far) arranging my time so that I do not have to do anything to any deadline. The world in general, and that of architecture in particular, is festooned with people regulating each other. I have often heard the cry: 'I know it's not as good as it could be, but I will miss the deadline if I do not take the decision now!' Another piece of greyness is slotted into the jigsaw that is the surface of the earth. Time is the key to quality in everything. A good meal can be made in no time: I think of fresh bread and spring onions accompanied by fresh oysters extracted from the Shoal Haven River in Australia, washed down with a glass of cold Chablis. NO TIME TO MAKE - BUT ALL THE TIME TO EAT.

Sir Edwin Lutyens talked of designing a response to a new commission in 20 minutes. Any longer ensured a difficult and less inspiring project ahead. On the other hand, Cedric Price taught me the importance of delayed decision-making.

Never close anything down before you have to, extra time will allow you, perhaps, to see the less obvious, the possibility of an insight beyond anything so far imagined, a twist of fate that will actually be the source of delight and joy for all users of the project.

A good project manager should ensure that the architect has all the time in the world to evolve and discover the architecture, with all the interested parties.

This process allows the project to elevate itself above the mere act of building and turn it into architecture. The failure of this process is not always caused by an insecure, ill-educated management regime, but often the architects themselves. The art of architecture lies not in merely the number of buildings you build (in fact, there is plenty of evidence that the more some architects build, the worse their oeuvre becomes) but how you approach the subject.

You could describe architecture as an abstraction. It is an exploration interrupted by commissions. It is the practice of the art of architecture, unencumbered by practice, which lies at the root of what we do. Yet very few architects allow themselves the time to do this.

Work which you do not build allows you to better serve the clients for whom you do build. For this you need to allow time.


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