Intricate systems

Over time, every system becomes increasingly complex. That’s because in order to make it better, we tweak it. We add exceptions. We do things that are urgent, essential or smart for a particular use case. We learn from what’s broken and we fix that broken spot.

New projects can’t possibly be as intricate as old ones. And so the campus at Oxford is going to be very different than a vocational school in a new building.

When we start a new system, it doesn’t pay to comment on the lack of patina, elegance or special case handling. Of course a new system can’t do any of those things. The part that’s worth noticing is the efficiency and design of the structure itself. Is it extensible? How will it respond to the need to become more customized, resilient or user friendly?

A clean sheet of paper is a wonderful sight, but it’s not nearly as useful as a dog-eared notebook. The only way to get to a dog-eared bit of utility, though, is to start with something fresh.