Perfection, we know, is finality; and finality is death.
by phil on Wednesday Oct 19, 2005 10:01 PM
Google is not in decline.
However, here's an interesting connection.
First, Google is building:
Ever-expanding Internet search engine behemoth Google Inc. confirmed long-running rumors that it plans to develop as much as 1 million square feet of corporate office and R&D facilities within Silicon Valley's NASA Ames Research Center (pictured), a stone's throw from Google's Mountain View headquarters.
But in an article by Slate called The Edifice Complex:
The truth is that individuals and institutions usually turn to architecture at moments of decline. This curious fact was pointed out years ago by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in his 1968 best seller, Parkinson's Law. This book is full of pithy observations on the foibles of business administration, the best-known of which is: "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion." Less well-remembered is the author's observation on architecture. Parkinson considered buildings as an important barometer of corporate health, but as a negative barometer. "During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters," he wrote. "The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done. Perfection, we know, is finality; and finality is death."
Parkinson provided several historical examples. St. Peter's in Rome was built by popes who were enmeshed in worldly affairs and had lost much of their moral authority; Louis XIV built his palace at Versailles several decades after his great military triumphs and at a time when his power was in decline; exactly one year after the Viceroy of India moved into his new imperial capital of New Delhi, the Indian Congress demanded independence. One can add more. When CBS built "Black Rock," its imposing black granite headquarters in Manhattan, Edward R. Murrow was gone and infotainment was just around the corner. Pan American Airways built its huge headquarters on Park Avenue long after it pioneered transoceanic air travel, but not so long before it ceased operations.
So, contrary to Sudjic's claim, the rich and powerful don't shape the world. They build what are, very often, glorious tombstones. Neither Microsoft nor Google has erected a "world-class" headquarters on Madison Avenue yet; when they do, watch out.
I'm just enamored by this bit: "During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters," he wrote. "The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done. Perfection, we know, is finality; and finality is death." Are perfectionists just serial killers?