[FoRK] Engineering rules of thumb and Amazon's HQ2 effort

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at jarbox.org
Mon Sep 11 21:37:19 PDT 2017

See also: The curse of building a shiny new headquarters

http://www.businessinsider.com/poorly-timed-headquarters-2009-11 <http://www.businessinsider.com/poorly-timed-headquarters-2009-11>

I generally buy the idea that the distraction of creating the perfect new building/monument tends to steal attention from ruthlessly executing the business.


> On Sep 11, 2017, at 7:02 PM, Ken Meltsner <meltsner at alum.mit.edu> wrote:
> Are our tech giants getting a bad case of edifice complex?  First
> Apple with the "spaceship" HQ, and now Amazon putting out an RFP for
> their second headquarters.
> Last week, sdw mentioned one of the most famous engineering "laws"
> (Postel's).  Well, way back at my first professional, permanent job
> (GE R&D), Stephen Spacil, one of my colleagues, had come up with an
> engineering "law" that ought to be better known:
> By the time you build a new facility for an opportunity, the
> opportunity will have passed.
> There were many examples at GE in Niskayuna, like the coal
> gasification building that wasn't completed until coal gasification
> was shown to be a dead end both economically and technically, or the
> lab space purpose-built for a division that was sold shortly before
> the lab was completed.
> And the corollary is that junky buildings, like MIT's famous Building
> 20 [1] (built as temporary lab space during WWII, but used for more
> than 50 years) are often the most productive spaces for novel ideas
> because no one cared what happened to it -- labs routinely drilled
> holes in walls and floors to make space or connections for unwieldy
> equipment, for example.
> Really makes me wonder about Apple's new headquarters which is
> probably too beautiful to hack if a flexible space is needed, and now
> Amazon's stated goal of adding a second headquarters.
> Ken Meltsner
> [1]  Brand, Stewart (1995). How buildings learn: what happens after
> they're built. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-013996-9., cited
> at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_20
> -- 
> After 30+ years of email, I have used up my supply of clever .sig material.
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