Notes on How Buildings Learn, Part 2: Maintenance and Time

More is being spent on changing buildings than on building new ones.
- Stewart Brand, How Buildings Learn, p. 5.

Commercial buildings have to adapt quickly, often radically, because of intense competitive pressure to perform, and they are subject to the rapid advances that occur in any industry. [...] Domestic buildings – homes – are the steadiest changers, responding directly to the family’s ideas and annoyances, growth and prospect. [...] Institutional buildings act as if they were designed specifically to prevent change for the organization inside and to convey timeless reliability to everyone outside.
- Ibid. p. 7.

Software is different from buildings. Building software from scratch can be carried out as if it were maintenance. Still, many projects are very large scale, starting with grand plans and proceeding for a year or more before delivering something that works. Things are changing, though. Enterprise software is increasingly regarded as an inevitably heterogeneous collection of legacy systems and new systems, that must be integrated with each other.

The term architecture was appropriated by software people based on a misunderstanding of what brick-and-mortar architecture is. This naïve view completely overlooks change whatsoever. The architect draws plans, according to which the software is built. He can anticipate everything, and the context will never change.

Already on page 11 in Brand’s book, I made a note in the margin that his view of architecture seems to be the one closest to software development.

My approach is to examine buildings as a whole – not just whole in space, but whole in time. Some buildings are designed and managed as a spatial whole, none as a temporal whole.
- Ibid., p. 2.

First we shape our buildings, then they shape us, then we shape them again – ad infinitum. Function reforms form, perpetually.
- Ibid. p. 3.

True software architecture.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on April 4, 2005. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.


Related posts:

Posted around the same time:

The seven most recent posts:

  1. Tesugen Replaced (October 7)
  2. My Year of MacBook Troubles (May 16)
  3. Tesugen Turns Five (March 21)
  4. Gustaf Nordenskiöld om keramik kontra kläddesign (December 10, 2006)
  5. Se till att ha två buffertar för oförutsedda utgifter (October 30, 2006)
  6. Bra tips för den som vill börja fondspara (October 7, 2006)
  7. Light-Hearted Parenting Tips (September 16, 2006)