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The Diary of an Anonymous Architect #3

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The third in a new series about the day-to-day travails of an embattled practitioner. This week: Switching Off

‘Let’s waste time…..’ Gary Lightbody

A glorious Bank Holiday evening, and an opportunity to switch off for a couple of hours.  I often wish I had an off switch. Almost anything links back to some aspect of architecture and practice. It can get tiresome.

Anyway, time to waste on some TV. Although the mysterious title of the BBC drama Page Eight wasn’t much of an attraction, it exceeded expectations from the off. And while I can’t remember much of the story the scenes, framing, lighting were a feast. I don’t usually like the lighting of BBC set pieces but I began to wonder if this lighting designer might consider working with us sometime……

The title’s meaning was eventually revealed in a more memorable scene: a power meeting. Agent Johnny refers to a file, the subject of the meeting, supposing everyone present had read it. 

No-one had read the file and no-one wanted to admit it

At that moment I was transported to dozens of meetings I’ve attended when a similar question is asked.  There was that familiar slightly shifty, slightly sheepish expression on everyone’s face.  No-one had read the file, no-one wanted to admit it and everyone hoped they would avoid the killer question and so save face.  A number of my bosses impressed on me the importance of reading files or minutes for upcoming meetings . You’ll be in the minority, perhaps the only one who has read them……

Agent Johnny paused then insisted everyone must have seen the toxic information on the last line of…….Page Eight.  A couple of coups de grâce there.  First, we found out why the title. Second, when attending a meeting, it pays to be prepared – it may well mean you control the meeting.

If you don’t take minutes someone else is recording history their way

That reminded me of the importance of minutes, not always evident to new members of our team.  At college the emphasis was on all the lovely stuff and minutes didn’t get much consideration.  Our practice’s own wizened adviser still stresses their importance.  It is the dreariest of tasks but he insists we volunteer to take the minutes at every opportunity – ‘if you don’t someone else is recording the history their way……’

He adds: ‘And always do them as soon as possible, never on the morning of the next meeting: you forget important detail; they’re unhelpful so late; you look unprofessional and more importantly they take longer.’ 

It may not be necessary to go as far as my first boss who stopped site meetings as each topic was concluded to write the minute there and then. But he never felt that dread of getting back to the office with sheets of hastily scribbled notes to unravel.  Wise One also says if someone else takes on the task, make sure you read their minutes carefully and if they’re not an accurate record ensure they’re corrected – extra specially important if the minutes are done by the project manager or main contractor.  ‘They’re not malicious necessarily, but everyone wants history to look kindly on them’.

By now Page Eight was rolling credits.  It had my favourite ambient look so I watched out for the lighting designer.  Producer yes, co-producer yes, assistant to the assistant producer yes – then all the rest of the team rolled by in a flash….. 

PS: Resorted to iPlayer to uncover the name of the lighting designer. Not sure we could afford him. Maybe no harm in asking.        




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