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04.24.06

What Would You Do?

CiticorpThere's a inspiring editorial and retelling of a story that originally ran in the New Yorker in 1995, on the Design Observer blog by Michael Bierut. The story revolves around William LeMessurier, the structural engineer for Citicorp Center in New York. After the completion of the building he realized that his greatest achievement was instead a disaster waiting to happen. As it was currently designed, sufficiently high winds could knock down the Citicorp building. Faced with possible protracted litigation, probable bankruptcy, and professional disgrace, and the death of potentially thousands of people, what could/should he do? It drives home the value of doing the right thing even when the personal consequences could be disastrous. Makes a great case study. Beirut's closing remarks have application to anyone both personally and professionally:
We designers call ourselves problem solvers, but we tend to be picky about what problems we choose to solve. The hardest ones are the ones of our own making. They're seldom a matter of life or death, and for maybe for that reason they're easier to evade, ignore, or leave to someone else. I face them all the time, and it's a testimony to one engineer's heroism that when I do, I often ask myself one question. It's one I recommend to everyone: what would William LeMessurier do?
[The Citicorp Center in New York City is most famous for its 45 degree roof and its ten story stilts. Standing at 914 ft (279 m) and 59 stories high, it was designed by Hugh Stubbins and built in 1977. Its unusual base was designed to incorporate the nearby St. Peter's Church.]

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:02 AM
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