matejg

A Compromise

- by Matej Gašperič

Damn!

I felt frustrated.

It was a beautiful, sunny, late fall weekend. I decided to used it to catch up with the thousand tasks outside the house, that had been pilling up for quite some time now and had to be done before the arrival of the winter. But while I was chopping the logs, my mind was absent, racing in a high gear through a different world, solving a floor plan of my latest project. I brought a roll of a trace paper to the outdoor table and from time to time, I would put away an axe or some other tool I was using at the moment and grab a pencil to try yet another scheme that formed in my mind.

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Without success.

Nothing worked.

Whatever I tried made things even worse.

Frustration mounted.

I was in despair.

And morning email from the client, where he told me how to move rooms, made things even worse. Long time ago I decided that I would never accept to work under the dictation. I rather choose to put all the effort into the understanding the background of the problem in order to be able to come up with a proper solution.
So when an email pinged, I brushed it off rather rudely. To rudely actually, since deep down I knew that it was well meant and that a short dictation was only a client’s way of proposing a solution to the problem at hand.

It took me roughly three weeks of intensive planning to come up with a concept solution that covered quite complex functional program and a dynamic living scenario envisioned by the client. At the end of the process I felt exhausted. I had no doubt I would have an extremely hard time coming up with something completely different so before a presentation, I dreaded the possibility of client’s refusal.

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As usually, the client was a bit surprised since the presented concept and the floor plan did not match the picture he had in mind. But fortunately he generally liked it. Even liked it very much since it shook his idea of a house in a good and  positive way.

He had few remarks never the less.
They seemed minor and soon proved to be simply solvable inside the constraints of the presented scheme.

All of them, but one.

At first, I have not gave it much consideration. It was a kind of lifestyle remake that addressed an occurrence I find it hard to comprehend since it would never happen to me. So during the meeting, I just wrote it down, discussed it a bit to understand it more, but generally waved it off as a thing of minor significance.

But when I started to go thru my notes, sketching the changes, I more and more realized that, however insignificant it might be for my lifestyle, it was mandatory for his.  Whatever I tried to solve the problem, it irreversibly damaged my clean, simply readable, open floor plan. Solely from the functional point of view, I had no doubt, that the solution I came up with would adequately solve client’s problem and that he would have no problem accepting it.

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And that was something I was really afraid of. It would not be the first time, that a solution, I presented to the clients as an example of a bad solution, would be embraced by them. In consequence I had a hard time getting my proposal of the desk and putting the things on the right track again. Based on these past experiences, I decided not to present it at all.

I rather choose to follow and advice I long ago picked from my mentor Glenn Murcutt (more about it you can read in a blog “Good Enough”), and go back behind the drawing board.

So when, at the end of the day, I finally sit down with Alenka and a glass of red wine, I was throughout frustrated.

There I was, with a beautiful, functional, cleand ans simple floor plan, that would work perfectly, but for the client. I had a modification, which would work for him, but would also cut into the essence of my solution. It would be a compromise, I was not willing to make and for a brief moment, even a thought of dropping off crossed my mind.

What kept me going was yet another thought from Glenn, who at one occasion said: ““Compromise gives us the opportunity to make things better.” What he meant was, that we should not accept the compromise with which each side would we partly satisfied, but rather use the opportunity to make things even better.

Alenka felt my sullen mood and, instead of let it be – which I would prefer, went digging for the reason, like she usually does in similar circumstances.
I used the opportunity and let out the pain. I did my best to explain it to her, how it is more than obvious that my house design is right, but client’s lifestyle happens to be wrong. Regardless of the unconditional love for me, she insisted that I am wrong, that she understands the client and thinks he is right about the matter at hand. In her vehement incomprehension of things, she kept irritating me with the irrelevant and amateurish proposals how I should resolve the problem. Somehow she refused to understand the reasons behind my argument and the domino effect the proposed changes might commence. Soon, tired of my futile attempts to enlighten her, I was only half listening to her chanting. My patience was rapidly running critically low. I was about to expedite finishing my wine and call it a day, when suddenly something she said draw my full attention.

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It was so obvious that it has been hidden from me by its simplicity. Fortunately, trace paper and the pen are never far at our home. In no time, before me, there was a rough sketch of an idea, I have been looking for, for a whole day.

A solution, which fully supported the client’s lifestyle needs, while at the same time maintained all the good from my initial design.

A perfect compromise :)