8 years, 14 days ago

Architecture and the Remainder of Design

Link: http://drisec.com/2011/04/06/architecture-and-the-remainder-of-design/

In the one comment made to the earlier post Architecture in Context [Revision 1], different aspects are put forward that I also see as key elements in a defining story but in quite different ways as proposed.

One, on which I fundamentally differ in opinion, is about the interpretation of a quote by Grady Booch (@Grady_Booch), a well-known and widely accepted truth about architecture:

All architecture is design but not all design is architecture.

The deduction that I make is that architecture is a part of a whole called design which leaves another part, the remainder of design, resulting in following questions:

  • Is there any primacy in these parts?
  • Where does architecture end and the remainder of design begin?

In the comment referred to above, is stated that Grady Booch meant to differentiate otherwise, between objective/subjective aspects.   No doubt the objective versus subjective stand towards fit-for-purpose is an important element in a defining story – one that I will later come back to  – but I disagree that the concern is what differentiates design from architecture.  It plays a role but in an other way.

In fact, I cannot find any proof of Grady stating so. Moreover, there is a well-known addition to the quote by Grady Booch (original reference) that points in quite a different direction.

What followed is:

Architecture represents the significant design decisions that shape a system, where significant is measured by cost of change.

That more or less has always been my understanding and has a consequence.  It means that the part representing architecture is a relative notion.  Significant means “significant when compared to the cost of change of the whole”.

I’ll present an example taken from the tangible world, to clarify.  If urban architecture is your perspective, the architecture of one specific building is usually not significant. It is therefore part of the remainder of design, at least from that perspective.  If only the building is your perspective, architecture is made up by a part of a whole that in the former perspective completely ended up in the remainder of design.

Grady Booch refers to significant “cost of change” which seems to point to financial measure.  I believe that such an understanding is too restrictive.
Therefore I refer to significant “barriers to change” instead, thereby generalizing more specific barriers like:

  • significant number of dependencies. In fact the remainder of design is secondary design as it depends on the architecture and thus will be seriously impacted by change to the architecture
  • significant reach, level and/or period of non-operation due to change in progress
  • the need for significant transition architecture(s) to overcome the previous
  • significant financial cost to change in comparison with the financial cost of the whole, for sure
  • significantly hard to gain empowerment needed to enact the change

The latter specific barrier is a reason why most cities have retained old structures over centuries but Paris is an exception.  Napoleon III had not only a considerable amount of power at his disposal but was also a good communicator, hence he succeeded in acquiring the necessary empowerment, to have realized what has been referred to as Haussmann’s renovation.

Hence significant in this context also means that such a change when started abruptly and incautiously is likely to cause anything close to destruction and subsequent recreation with the newly desired fundamental structure. In between old and new, the action would cause the whole to be significantly non-operational.

This all leads to following observation:

Architecture itself is that what is inherently not agile.

The remainder of design is on the other side of the barrier, thus:

The remainder of design is that what is inherently agile.

Thus this makes architecture about agility distribution, structures that can be changed easily and others that cannot:

Agility Distribution

That distribution may be a reality that we simply find or it may be something that can be influenced through the act of designing thereby turning architecture into an agility distribution instrument, in fact:

Although architecture is “the” prime enabler of agility, architecture itself is that what is inherently not agile.

Tagged: agility, architecture, defining story, quality attribute, story, storytelling