img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="")

Dry sorrow drinks blood

Maria Smith

Maria Smith bites her Shakespearean thumb at office politics

In the ‘Verona’ meeting room, where we lay our scene, a post-tender negotiation has been under way for some time. However, unable to agree on a sum, the participants have become aggressive and the design manager (DM) has threatened to punch the project manager (PM) in the throat. The client has now issued a warning that anyone seen to prevent an amicable outcome will be fired.

The design manager apologises, citing the refusal of another architect to issue drawings in CAD format as the source of his vexations. 

After the meeting, the landscape architect suggests to the despondent design manager that instead of wallowing around at home listening to Jeff Buckley, he come out to a party. Overhearing their conversation, the contractor invites himself along too. The project manager rolls her eyes at the contractor’s presumptuousness and the wise but perfunctory QS counsels the PM to also attend and befriend the contractor. ‘If looking liking move,’ the PM inexplicably mumbles.

At the party, the design manager and project manager find themselves having a shockingly fulfilling conversation. The PM sets out her hopes and dreams and the DM responds with extraordinary insight. The hot-headed contractor witnesses their interaction and fearing a collusion that would cost him his profits, makes toward them pugnaciously. Seeing his approach and expecting a crude misunderstanding, the lovers sneak away to smell each other under a London Plane before lamenting parting’s sweet sorrow.


The contractor gloats so annoyingly that the DM smashes the contractor’s hand into the table so hard that everyone’s favourite mug is broken

Next morning, the design manager heads to the architect’s studio to brainstorm how best to fix the tender price, and fast, so that he can be free to love the project manager. The architect – who is also keen to see negotiations concluded, as they’re not covered in his fees – agrees to present some irresistible value engineering options at the next meeting. He keeps his word and as he holds everyone’s attention, the DM and PM make hot lusty eyes at each other over the meeting table. The contractor – still mistakenly riled – fails to see the benefits of the architect’s proposals and moronically challenges the design manager to an arm wrestle. The DM refuses but the vain structural engineer takes the bait. The contractor beats the engineer and gloats so annoyingly that the DM concedes and smashes the contractor’s hand into the table so hard that everyone’s favourite mug is broken.

On hearing of these calamities, the client takes the DM off the job and banishes him to the site office of an eco-community in rural Spain. The QS emails the news to the PM. The PM texts the DM and they arrange a night together before he leaves. They go to an old pub and drink whisky then feel each other up in an alleyway. They kiss goodbye in an unusually successful bit of public realm with a genuine sense of place, then go their separate ways.

The PM, unable to reveal the true reasons behind her foul mood, pretends to be apoplectic with rage with the marketing team for refusing to pay for professional visualisations. In an attempt to sooth her, the QS persuades the client to reveal that they have an inordinately large contingency that could allow substantial redesigns. The PM, however, can’t bear the idea of protracting negotiations any further, so begs the architect for help. The architect, who has also become so tired of the project that he’d rather see it go design and Build, gladly obliges. He offers to issue the PM drawings with incorrect revision numbers to allow her to create the illusion of incompetent document control. Furthermore, he promises to email her beloved design manager and propose that he requests the PM’s presence in Spain. The architect assures the PM that the client will surely banish her also: her punishment being her salvation.

They kiss goodbye in an unusually successful bit of public realm with a genuine sense of place, then go their separate ways

According to plan, the PM logs on to the project’s central FTP server and saves over the correct drawings with the fiddled revisions. Soon after, the QS goes into the folder and sees the carnage. She alerts the client and the PM is fired within the hour. Realising the plan has gone awry, the PM lies down on the meeting room floor and falls into a deep catatonic depression.

Unfortunately, the design manager’s mailbox is full so the architect’s message doesn’t reached him. But he hears that the project manager has been fired and, distraught at her career troubles, quits his job and returns to London. On reaching the PM’s offices, he climbs some scaffolding on the opposite building to assess the situation. From this vantage he sees her lifeless body, prone on the meeting room floor. Overcome with grief, he jumps off the scaffolding to his death. 

The project manager’s grim reverie is broken by a bang. She looks up to see her beloved design manager impaled on a carelessly located acro-prop. Unable to contemplate life without him, she unhesitatingly launches herself through the window and is sliced to death by the un-laminated glass.

Just at that moment, the client, architect and contractor arrive for a meeting and see the grotesque corpses. The three quickly agree that the construction of two gold statues of Romeo and Juliet is not worth all this trouble and cancel the project.

Maria Smith is a director at Studio Weave



Tuesday, 9 July 2024, 9 am – 11.30 am

Architecture for Housing and Residential Development webinar

How architects and specifiers can ensure competence and compliance - 2 July 2024

Webinar: Addressing Onsite Safety using Fall Protection Systems

25 June 2024, 9 - 11:30 am

PiP Design for Sustainability Webinar 2024

Thomson's compelling photo essay, first published in 2011, is being compiled into a photo book that depicts everyday life in the shadow of the nuclear power station, before the middle-class came calling

Revealing photos of life in the shadow of a nuclear power station presented in a striking new book

Design net zero homes for a garden village in North Yorkshire, masterplan a Norfolk quayside or grab a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance for urban designers - some of the latest architecture contracts and competitions from across the industry

Latest: £20m Joseph Rowntree net zero homes design and build contract