The circle of life

All the world’s a Plan of Work stage

External Management
External Management

Without B for Brief, or C for Concept, without D for Developed or Detail, or even at a stretch K for Construction, the new plan of work is difficult to bond with. If only there were a way to swap its sensible numbers for a different sequence, perhaps one more associated with love or time or gods or some other emotive hook

All the world’s a plan of work stage
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their roles and their scopes of work;
And one design in its time plays many parts,
Its acts being seven stages.

At first, Stage 1, Preparation and Brief: the infant, mewling and puking in the primordial gloop of the potential projects ­folder. No design yet exists in this suckling stage, only vague goals breastfed in the privacy of an unbooked meeting room; building a bond with baby-design. This is the Sunday of a project: the dawn.

And next Stage 2, Concept Design: the whining school-boy with his satchel, skinny with inadequate adjacencies diagram. A shining morning face slowly discerns as the design emerges, creeping like snail, burdened by what it still needs to know. Harsh days pass and with every sheet of trace, every one saved as sketch file, a young mind’s ­neural pathways are forged. No stage is in equal parts so unpredictable yet predictive; so brimming with prospects yet defined by pioneering pedagogies and niche house styles. This is the Monday of the project: with wavering illumination by the goddess moon on this first day of real work.

The lover, sighing like a furnace in anticipation of this romping, sensual stage. Pubescent design indulges to distraction in materials, details, acoustics

And then Stage 3, Developed Design: the lover, sighing like a furnace in anticipation of this romping, sensual stage. With concept in place, it is a lithe body ready to explore new-found carnality and feeling. Pubescent design indulges to distraction in materials, details, acoustics: her skin, her eyebrow, the sound of her voice. It revels in possibilities, unafraid of final consequences or exact specification. But all comes crashing down, as with woeful ballad our adolescent must reconcile with the design team, must be subjected to risk assessments, cost plans, change control that wounds with the pain of unrequited love. This is the Tuesday of a project: a sensory day of conflict and longing in the name of the gods Mars and Tyr, son of Odin.

To Stage 4, Technical Design: a soldier. Full of strange oaths sworn at design freeze, the young-man-design graduates to real, professional involvement with the world.  Bearded and donning a new level of autonomy, Design Esq. spars with knightly specialist subcontractors, vowing to reach its fullest height in technical virtuosity. Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, it boasts strength to defend its ripening form and protects pride and ego at all costs. The architect watches from the wings, hoping stern education and excessive front-loading of detailing will guide our zealous warrior. This is the Wednesday of a project: a day of distinction and battle in the name of the gods Mercury and Odin himself, father of all.

And then Stage 5, Construction: the justice, in fair round belly fat with specifications and eyes severe but secure in the formality of contract management. Full of wise words dispensed at length at site meetings, this stage claims the authority of plentiful but recent experience. The justice is a mirror to the lover, hands-on at last and relishing physicality with the renewed vigour of post-self-conscious middle age. This is the Thursday of a project: a day of strength and hammering in the name of the gods Jupiter and Thor.

The sixth stage, Stage 6, Handover and Close Out, shifts into old age as if towards the innocence of youth. As the project heads towards completion, the matured design eases into its slippers. With spectacles on nose, old-man-design is sensitive to defects and spends his days making the best of slightly too far gone predicaments. Nevertheless his youthful hose are well saved in preparation for the exuberance of awards and the naivety necessary for the next project. This is the Friday of the project: a day of support and communication in the name of the goddesses Venus and Frigg, wife of Odin.

Last scene of all, Stage 7, In Use, ends this strange eventful history. The operation and maintenance manual its last will and ­testament, the post-occupancy evaluation its obituary, these final hours descend into second childishness and mere oblivion. This last scene mirrors the first and the design enters once more the primordial gloop, ready for the next incarnation. This is the Saturday of the project: a day in the name of Saturn, god of time, generation and dissolution. 

Maria Smith is a director at Studio Weave

Procurement & Contracts
Procurement & Contracts