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Lessons From Built Architecture?

Simile and metaphor drawn form one professional domain is often of limited applicability in another. Calling the high–most technical lead of a software project the "architect" is some sort of mixture of hubris, grandiosity, (self)delusion and propaganda. What can we learn from the words of building architects that might help with that?

[note to editors: I don't have rock solid references for all of these yet, but will be hitting the British Library next weekend to check them out].

“Architecture is a social act and the material theater of human activity.”—Spiro Kostof

How many software architects see their role as primarily technical? Is it not rather that they are the conciliators, go–betweens and arbiters of the warring factions within the stake-holders?

“A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart.”—Frank Lloyd Wright

What more strongly marks out the architects in your organisation: raw intellectual horsepower and vast capacity to recall technical minutia, or taste, refinement and generosity of spirit? Would you rather it were otherwise?

“A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines.”—ibid

Is the "maintenance" of "legacy" systems anything more than pruning vines?

“Architects believe that not only do they sit at the right hand of God, but that if God ever gets up, they take the chair”—Karen Moyer

“Architecture is politics.”—Mitchell Kapor

“In architecture as in all other operative arts, the end must direct the operation. The end is to build well. Well building has three conditions: Commodity, Firmness and Delight.”—Henry Watton

"No person who is not a great sculptor or painter can be an architect. If he is not a sculptor or painter, he can only be a builder"—John Ruskin

"It seems a fantastic paradox, but it is nevertheless a most important truth, that no architecture can be truly noble which is not imperfect."—ibid

By Keith Braithwaite

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3

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