Resident story told by the Rijksbouwmeester

Let me first point out that simple, straightforward projects are nowadays the exception rather than the rule. Complexity and conflicting stakeholder interests are encountered in relatively small projects as well. For instance, the design of a building for the Court of Justice is extremely complex: various parties - lawyers, judges, prisoners, the press, etc. - should never meet each other before the court session. Security - personal safety, leaking of confidential information, etc. - is an extremely complex issue. As a result of this trend towards more and more complexity, management practices to cope with it will become more and more important.

Back to the 'Resident'. How could we meet the enormous challenge we were confronted with? Actually, by putting two important (process) constraints upon ourselves, to make the work a real collective effort:

• To develop a master plan with few people (about 7) in a short time (3 months), under the supervision of Rob Krier;

• To have the brains at the 'table' for all team members, which meant that there was no delegation allowed.

Names were tossed around. We had agreed to aim at a mix of older and younger architects. Candidates would have to be loyal to Rob Krier's ideas or decline the invitation. Some actually did so, others were immediately enthusiastic. After a last check on names with the ministers Hans Albers and Hedie d'Ancona, we ended up with a team of Rob Krier, myself and the following architects:

The first two architects were in their late forties, the second two in their early thirties. Somewhat later Karelse Van de Meer Architects joined for the design of two blocks of houses and CHE Partners for the design of open spaces.

An agreement on our intended modus operandi was signed by all parties involved. The agreement also specified the total office floor area, number of parking places, number of houses, etc. An extremely important item was that we would not decide a priori who would design which building. The master plan had to be the brainchild of all of us. The master plan was generated in six workshops, each lasting 48 hours. The municipality had made a villa available for us, which was at walking distance from a hotel for our guests from abroad.

After three months we had indeed completed a master plan. A few dozen maquettes were made for the presentation. Sjoerd Soeters turned out to be a virtuoso in this. The presentation was given to some 35 people seated in the living room of our villa.

The reaction of the ABP, one of the financing parties, was one of complete rejection. It then paid off that we had generated the master plan as a team: each of us felt responsible for the whole. As a result, we did not change anything because of the harsh criticism of ABP, but we decided to continue without them. At a later stage ABP tried to get in again, but then it was too late.

We then involved project developer MAB. It took about one year to overcome their emotional backlog, which means to get them at an equal level of understanding and emotional commitment. From this experience we learned the lesson that it is essential to involve the project developer from the start (which we have done in all subsequent projects).

Ton Meijer, director of MAB, had a very good liaison with Rob Krier, which made it possible to correct our managerial mistake of involving the project developer only after the basic concept had already been established.

After a year, a financial agreement was reached involving a guarantee from the Government to hire some 55 000 m2 office space. We had our regular meetings to monitor progress with about one hundred people. This brought along with it, of course, quite some bureaucracy.

When we were well underway, Ton Meijer came with the message of doom that his company did not wish to continue with the architects of our team. The future users wanted the involvement of some international 'big shots'. The issue was resolved in the sense that our team was extended with some internationally well reputed architects from abroad:

They were prepared to work according to our agreed modus operandi, including loyalty to Rob Krier's vision. We actually learned a lot from them. For instance, the American architects were always focused on the client. They would never trust that a drawing would be enough for the client and would always make maquettes for presentations.

Each of the architects, including Rob Krier himself, was finally entrusted with the design of a specific building. To ensure coherence of the project as a whole, however, all detailed drawings were made by one and the same office Arcadis (Grabowsky & Poort), under the supervision of Sjoerd Soeters.

We were lucky in the sense that we could focus on quality without being concerned about budget constraints. The project was initially scheduled over

a period of 10 years which eventually became 13 years. The increase of prices of real estate in those three years only improved profits. As a result we could afford to monitor progress on time rather than on budget.

Whether we reached our goal of quality should be left to the judgement of the users, once the construction is completed.

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