May 4, 2008

If Architects Had To Work Like Programmers

Here's the classic comparison of a Programmer's work to an Architect's work.

Please design and build me a house.  I am not sure of what I need, 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 or deleted.  When you bring the blueprints to me, I will make the
final decision of what I want.  Also bring me the cost breakdown for each
configuration so I can arbitrarily pick one.

Keep in mind that the house I ultimately choose 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 have nearly enough
insulation in them.)

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

Please take care that the 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 accommodate, among other things, my 1952
Gibson refrigerator.

To insure that you are building the correct house for my entire family, make
certain that you contact each of my children and also my 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 these options carefully and come to the right decision.  I,
however, retain the right to overrule any choices you make.

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 color of the carpet.  Keep
in mind, however 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 construction within 48 hours.

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

I can advise you to run up and look at my neighbor's house he constructed
last year.  We like it a great deal.  It has many of the 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 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 interesting a 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 has just told me that she disagrees with many of the
instructions I've given you in this letter.  As 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 the
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.
I'm not sure of the origin, since it has been posted so many times without attribution.

The earliest reference I could find was from March 1997: