The Doppelganger Effect

Twins - Doppleganger EffectFrequently when I’m speaking with facilities and operations managers, they complain of being given design documents during the handover from construction to operations.

The reality is that during the life of a construction project, compromises are reached, mistakes made and variations approved, resulting in a built structure that may not look exactly like the architect’s vision. This is why receiving accurate “as built” drawings and commissioning information in handover is key to any new construction, energy and resources, or infrastructure project if it is to be operated effectively from day one.

In this context, I was intrigued to read an article in Der Spiegel about Zaha Hadid’s stunning Wangjing SOHO concept in Beijing. The project is under intense pressure to be completed before a “pirated” version – i.e., a direct copy – of the building opens in Chongqing.

The Der Spiegel article focuses on the state of intellectual property protection in China and its impact on architects. For example, China already has many direct copies of overseas buildings, including an entire British town. However, the article also raises thought-provoking questions about the future of design and construction.

Will the next evolution of beautiful structures actually consist of those that can be built first, before copies spring up? Where will the building’s uniqueness lie – in the design, or in the execution?  And even if the two buildings in China are based on the same Hadid design, will the actual structures look and operate the same once they are completed?

Two independent structures are unlikely to operate the same. However, this new pressure on rapid, flawless execution in construction – and handover – will be interesting to watch.

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