Articles about Software

If Architects had to work like Programmers

Dear Mr. Architect:

Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need 
so you should use your discretion.

My house should have between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure 
the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added and deleted. 
When bringing the blueprints to me, I will make the final decision of 
what I want. Also bring me the cost breakdown for each configuration so 
that I can arbitrarily pick one.

Keep in mind that the house I ultimately chose must cost less than the 
one I am currently living in. Make sure, however, that you correct all 
the deficiencies that exist in my current house (the floor of my kitchen 
vibrates when I walk across it, and the walls don't nearly have enough 
insulation in them).

As you design, also keep in mind that I want to keep yearly maintenance 
costs as low as possible. This should mean the incorporation of 
extra-cost features like aluminium, vinyl, or composite siding. (If you 
choose not to specify aluminium, be prepared to explain your decision in 

Please take care that modern design practices and the latest materials 
are used in the construction of the house, as I want it to be a 
showplace for the most up-to-date ideas and methods. Be alerted, 
however, that the kitchen should be designed to a accommodate, among 
other things, my 1952 Gibson refrigerator.

To ensure that you are building the correct house for our entire family, 
make certain that you contact each of our children, and also our 
in-laws. My mother-in-law will have very strong feelings about how the 
house should be designed, since she visits us at least once a year. Make 
sure that you weigh all of these options carefully and come to the right 
decision. I, however, retain the right to overrule any choices that you 

Please don't bother me with small details right now. Your job is to 
develop the overall plans for the house: get the big picture. At this 
time, for example, it is not appropriate to be choosing the colour of 
the carpet. However, keep in mind that my wife likes blue.

Also do not worry at this time about acquiring the resources to build 
the house itself. Your first priority is to develop detailed plans and 
specifications. Once I approve these plans, however, I would expect the 
house to be under roof within 48 hours.

While you are designing this house specifically for me, keep in mind 
that sooner of later I will have to sell it to someone else. It 
therefore should have appear to a wide variety of potential buyers. 
Please make sure before you finalise the plans that there is consensus 
of the population in my area that they like the features this house has.

I advise you to run up and look at my neighbours house he constructed 
last year. We like it a great deal. It has many features that we would 
also like in our new home, particularly the 75-foot swimming pool. With 
careful engineering, I believe that you can design this into our new 
house without impacting the final cost.

Please prepare a complete set of blueprints. It is not necessary at this 
time to do the real design since they will be used only for construction 
bids. Be advised, however, that you will be held accountable for any 
increase of construction costs as a result of later design changes.

You must be thrilled to be working on as an interesting project as this! 
To be able to use the latest techniques and materials and to be given 
such freedom in your designs is something that can t happen very often. 
Contact me as soon as possible with your complete ideas and plans.

PS: My wife just told me that she disagrees with many of the 
instructions I've given you in this letter. As the architect, it is your 
responsibility to resolve these differences. I have tried in the past 
and have been unable to accomplish this. If you can't handle this 
responsibility, I will have to find another architect.

PPS: Perhaps what I need is not a house at all but a travel trailer. 
Please advise me as soon as possible if this is the case.

Kevin Coheen, Associate Professor. Department of Mechanical & Aerospace 
Engineering Carleton University, Ontario, Canada