How many of you saw the movie “Field of Dreams”? Remember the in end of the film when James Earl Jones’ character gets invited into the cornfield where the baseball players go? Into the Great Unforeseen? Remember how he first sticks a hand into the corn, feeling the leaves, then quickly withdraws it, giggling nervously? Then, he walks bravely into his future while the camera does a cutaway back to the present.
That’s where we are, Right Now. Our design efforts have been like a whole covey of James Earl Jones characters reaching into that cornfield, grasping onto nothing, giggling, nervously, waiting for answers to our questions about where we’ll end up and what we’ll do and who’ll be in there and who won’t.
What? Why is that?
The answer is that we have not completed Step One yet. So, at present, we find ourselves still standing on the edge of that cornfield, peering in, while waiting for whatever comes next.
What exactly does come next?
Remember, we are James Earl Jones here. We have to let the ballplayers guide us into the future. We have to finish gathering and providing information to the architect team so they can begin converting that information into sizes and shapes in space. That conversion process then comes back to us to review, suggest, change and finally ensure it is accurate enough to complete Step One, which is when we begin to discover the size, shape and layout of the building. Then, having completely entered that cornfield, that Great Unknown, we will be able to see what our efforts have gained us in vision and certainty.
Then what, you might ask?
Step Two is further investment into the process of making the form of the building take shape. We team up with the ballplayers (B&D), and stride further into the cornfield, hoping to determine whether all that initial fear and nervousness was warranted when the corn leaves first tickled our forearms and we felt alone, nervous and uncertain.
What exactly are we doing here?
We are participating in that age-old phrase, “Form Follows Function”. We are making the building take form. Together with B&D (the ballplayers), we are giving the building its shape as we work the information collection process and meet to discuss and verify our collective vision.
This is how that is done for every building, though most efforts don’t attract quite this size of a stakeholder crowd. So our work is like baseball in another sense: there we stand in right field. The other stakeholders are in their positions in the infield, in center field, behind home plate: chewing gum, squinting into the sun, waiting for the windup to begin…the sun is warm, a bee is grazing nearby clover, the sky is so blue it hurts your eyes to look at it (Moonlight Graham, right, Julia?)…then – CRACK! A LINE DRIVE COMING YOUR WAY! It’s your turn to make a decision! What do you say?
If you want a building to learn how to be, you have to pay its tuition in making decisions. This small piece of writing is like that. Why did I pick the cornfield? I needed a symbol to convey the utter powerlessness we have to control the future. The future is unknown to us. Or as one of my favorite authors put it:
“The future is no more controllable than it is predictable. The only reliable attitude to take towards the future is that it is profoundly, structurally unavoidably perverse. The rest of the iron rule is: whatever you are ready for, doesn’t happen; whatever you are unready for, does.” -Stewart Brand
So this exercise we are engaged in is the first step towards identifying our future. All we know for certain now is 4 walls and a roof. The rest comes one step at a time.