A different type of IT project failure

| November 7, 2007

MIT is suing the architect and construction firm responsible for their (relatively new) computer science complex:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has filed a negligence suit against world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, charging that flaws in his design of the $300 million Stata Center in Cambridge, one of the most celebrated works of architecture unveiled in years, caused leaks to spring, masonry to crack, mold to grow, and drainage to back up.

The suit says that MIT paid Los Angeles-based Gehry Partners $15 million to design the Stata Center, which was hailed by critics as innovative and eye-catching with its unconventional walls and radical angles. But soon after its completion in spring 2004, the center’s outdoor amphitheater began to crack due to drainage problems, the suit says. Snow and ice cascaded dangerously from window boxes and other projecting roof areas, blocking emergency exits and damaging other parts of the building, according to the suit. Mold grew on the center’s brick exterior, the suit says, and there were persistent leaks throughout the building…

An executive at Skanska’s Boston office yesterday blamed Gehry for problems with the project and said Gehry ignored warnings from Skanska and a consulting company prior to construction that there were flaws in his design of the amphitheater.

“This is not a construction issue, never has been,” said Paul Hewins, executive vice president and area general manager of Skanska USA. He said Gehry rejected Skanska’s formal request to create a design that included soft joints and a drainage system in the amphitheater, and “we were told to proceed with the original design.”

After the amphitheater began cracking and flooding, Skanska spent “a few hundred thousand dollars” trying to resolve the problems, but, he said, “it was difficult to make the original design work.”

What makes this fascinating is how the problems described echo those of many failed or troubled IT projects, particularly the alleged insistence on pushing ahead when architectural flaws and limitations became apparent. Read the whole article.

Hat tip to Slashdot. ..bruce..

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Category: Information Technology, Main, Pitfalls, Project Management

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

Comments (2)

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  1. kmickey says:

    Hamerly must be pissed…

  2. bfwebster says:

    That’s right, he graduated from MIT, didn’t he? Of course, he’s probably not as upset as all the folks having to actually use the complex….