Signs that you’re going to mess up big time

Posted on Mon 16 Aug 2010 @ 3.14pm HKT



HONG KONG proclaims itself as “Asia’s World City.” If the communication abilities of seasoned professionals in this 1,000-square-kilometre territory is anything to go by, you have to ask if we could be trusted with anything more complex. To wit:

Here (below) is a hoarding at a construction site somewhere in Wanchai district on Hong Kong Island. Behind the hoarding is a 50- or 60-year-0ld building slated for preservation and renovation by the Urban Renewal Authority of the Hong Kong government.

(Click on the picture for the full-size image: all images open in a new tab or window.)

Photo 1: Construction site hoarding

All right, let’s be fair. You have to have a good eye for detail to notice problems such as this. This is not the kind of stuff 99% of us would notice, or care to.

So what are we looking at then?

This is what Hong Kong has to show for its 156 years as a British Crown Colony — as well as the first British possession in the Far East to have an education system that offers English-language tuition universally for all elementary and secondary schoolchildren.

Photo 2: Hoarding detail re: conservation and surveyor

This stuff is peanuts. How is it possible to get it wrong? Are we going to just blame them as typos?

What the hell is a “conservation architect”?

Oh, sorry for my abject ignorance, you mean a conservancy consultant or a conservator (BrE) / conservationist (AmE).

The university’s Centre for Architectural Heritage Research looks like it will have a hard time conserving anything if it cannot even focus on spelling its own primary statutory mission.

It also needs to get a proper grip on its own name. It should really be the “Centre for Research in Architectural Heritage.” That sounds 100 times more natural in English and is also clearly its actual name in Chinese for those of you who can read Chinese.

Come again, what kind of quality?

A quantity surveyor is someone who estimates the cost of materials and labour for a construction job.

If that is the case, then my own estimation of this particular quantity surveyor is that he unnerves me in a phenomenally big way. You see, I get seriously nervous when I see people can’t spell their own jobs. If I were the “client,” the surveyor wouldn’t get a look in from me, let alone the commission.

So far, two BIG FAILURES.

Two more half-failures

Photo 3: Hoarding detail re: client and architect

You do know ‘developer’ means ‘client,’ don’t you?

Lord, these people clearly are living on another planet.

My father was an award-winning British architect, so let’s assume I’m conceited enough to say I know something about the architectural business as much as the business of architecture in my own small way.

I don’t know how thick-skinned a person will have to be in order to describe your client as ‘client’ in a public hoarding for an architectural/conservation project.

This is especially when the client is a government executive agency (which basically means government anyway).

The proper description is just developer or redeveloper. You don’t even need to qualify it. This is not some back-office graphic design job involving half a dozen tearsheets and prototypes, in which case the word ‘client’ wouldn’t be out of place.

Alas, we live in a world of tedious and difficult people who has to qualify and distinguish everything to hell. In that case, let’s try Commissioning Redeveloper for size.

Don’t architects design already?

If that doesn’t wretch your guts, then “Design Architect” sure will do the job.

Since when do we have to distinguish the standard-issued ‘architect’ as against any other kind of architect?

All architects design. All architects manage. All architects conserve. All architects do these things whether the “client” likes it or not.

These architects here, to be sure, need to be … ahem … let’s say retrained.

So what have we learned today?

1. Be proud and vainglorious all you like about your projects, but get your details right first. The first sign of turning into a laughing stock is to stutter your own name.

2. Make sure your employees (or contractors) responsible for ensuring quality for you is able to ensure their own quality on a simple matter first.

© Learn English or Starve, 2010. All images by the author.

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Posted in: Colour Section