Early stage project bureaucracy

At the end of March, during a Friday feedback session with my practice, I learned the full in-detail history of a project I’ve been working on since January. So for this next journal entry I want to focus on this projects politics and bureaucracy, and their implications. The project is for a new CDT department building for Stowe School in Buckinghamshire. Design Engine won the project last June by winning an invited competition but since winning, the process has become steadily more complex.

Design Engine were notified by the school after the project had been won of a main benefactor who was essentially funding the whole project. The benefactor was keen to have the main input, with the agreement of the school, on what the building would be like. However, the first hurdle Design engine were thrown was that the benefactor wanted to remain anonymous and therefore we had to speak through the school in order to communicate throughout the Design Process. Because of this most of the discussion was held between the estates manager and head teacher of Stowe. This caused a great deal of delay and unsurety in getting this project off the ground as Design Engine couldn’t communicate directly and coordinate the main client. Therefore when the school came to talk to the benefactor, the professional architectural conversation was lost. This created more ‘to and fro’ with design options than a normal project might. it took to the end of December to put together a scheme completed to the end of stage 2.

In January, Design Engine received news that the main benefactor for the scheme had pulled out after we had already spent half a year designing there new building. The school were now looking to build a smaller scheme with their own funds. This forced us into a complete redesign for a smaller building on a new plot which is where I was brought into the project. Having designed a whole scheme already Design Engine didn’t want to spend anymore time on a new scheme if we weren’t getting paid for it. This left us with an awkward position deciding on whether to continue with the project at a lower fee or withdrawing.

Design Engine decided to continue with the small fee for the design of a new building without the benefactor. During this time, another issue was created through internal conflict within the school. Communication between certain members of the school were at a low point which made getting any design decisions confirmed difficult and then unexpectedly the estates manager resigned. This may have actually proved beneficial and created the one thing we should have had all along which is direct communication with the person who we are design the project for. By the end of March we had designed a whole new scheme up to the same point as our previous scheme.

I have learned a lot whilst working on this scheme specifically relating to the politics of a project rather than the design side of things which I have had more exposure to. I’ve been able to discuss with the director at my practice about what each change has meant at each stage and how we have dealt with it. I would like to take this further and be involved in meetings where I can understand the developments as they’re happening first hand which I think maybe more of an experience I will be involved in later in my career. However, being able to shadow these meetings is something I have brought up with the directors so I can understand these processes better.


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