I was listening this morning to the Forum on the BBC which had an archectural theme to it, notably including Stephen Bayley, a commentator with whom I had dealings some years ago and whose opinion is always worth listening to.
He made the point that the completion of very large, eye catching buildings seemed to frequently coincide with an economic downturn and quoted Dubai and various buildings in London, the Shard and the Arc (West London, very visible from the A4 as you drive in from Heathrow) being a couple of examples I can think of, the latter admittedly from a while ago.
What strikes me as extraordinary is if you think of the economic concept of the Eliot wave, where famously ‘informed insiders’ are doing the opposite of ‘uninformed outsiders’ based in their relative access to valuable information, why are businesses which sit in that ‘informed insider’ category continuing to make the same mistakes? Typically it is financial services businesses in the last 20 years that have made these investments and you would think that they are amongst the earliest in the information chain.
I can think of a couple of reasons:
- the time frame for completing a major building is much longer than these businesses are used to considering in terms of their forecasts.
- the continuing change at the top of the business in terms of decision makers means that no one really bears responsibility for what happens in the previous cycle. Strategy changes with the incumbents but changing direction in terms of such a major project is massively punitive, and so the program of work continues despite misgivings at the top.