"Successful projects don’t just happen. They come together when three key elements are mastered: concept, finance and delivery. If any of these are not fully developed and understood, then success will be elusive."
The Lagoons - Mixed Use Development. Dubai, UAE
Architect, Urban & Regional Planner, MBA, Author
Piedmont, California, USA
I am Gordon Linden. I have had the good fortune to have created and carried out a successful career over many decades of professional and technical practice with teams engaged to deliver numerous major projects around the world.
I launched my international career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Venezuela which was followed by a variety of postings as an architect/planner among them working as an academic in Mexico teaching urban planning. I subsequently worked with the Bechtel companies for over 20 years returning to Venezuela and then on to many countries including Spain, Austria, Hungary, Argentina, Chile, followed by another 20 years with the Parsons Corporation and lately as a consultant/advisor. I have worked with numerous Olympic Games organizations as well as Expo (International Exposition) projects, most recently in Dubai and currently in Osaka, Japan.
THE QU & A
What are 3 values that you wish to mediate through your work?
Successful projects don’t just happen. They come together when three key elements are mastered: concept, finance and delivery. If any of these are not fully developed and understood, then success will be elusive. For example, a great concept is often the main thrust of a project proponent’s efforts with lots of supporting documentation including renderings, videos, and the like. But if the financial side of things is not well-developed to match the aspirations of the concept, through demonstrable market supports and resources to go the distance, then it’s unlikely that the vision will be realized and most likely will run out of steam when the first round of funding is expended.
Justice Facility. Martinez, CA, USA
What are 3 relevant problems that you wish to solve through your work?
I have focused on major projects as vehicles for economic development. A major undertaking, such as an Olympic Games, is more than just staging a series of sports events and usually arises from a community aspiration to achieve a better place with all that that involves including an improved environment, affirmative self-image, and economic development. Because the costs of major projects are easily understated by an optimistic proponent, my work often involves identifying all needed resources and then finding ways to deliver the project components in ways which meet the program but are less costly or have benefits which make them more tenable in the overall decision-making scheme. One of the major problems facing would-be hosts of major events is that gaining widespread public support is, for a variety of reasons, increasingly difficult. Looking at the recent past of International Expos, for example, it is apparent that proponent governments that are able to make decisions and fund projects without the steps required by governments with a multiparty approval process have prevailed in various bid efforts with required sanctions approved by international decision-makers. Whether this trend will balance out over time is not known but current bidders include both types of governments.
Ghala Industrial Area Redevelopment Plan. Muscat, Oman
How can Creatives improve their impact on the world by creating intentionally?
The inevitable question that creative work often must confront is how to value it? If a creative effort does not connect with a buyer or be of demonstrable benefit to someone or some group, then it is easily dismissed. There are historical examples of inventors who were given little opportunity to develop ideas because they weren’t recognized experts or members of a particular recognized group. Thus, keeping an open mind to the possibilities of a creative work is to broaden our view of the human condition and may lead to important results.
Palm Island Resort & Leisure Complex. Dubai, UAE
How can Creative Leaders show a more realistic example of trial and error?
Many organizations recognize the value of trial and error as a valid means of probing the universe of solutions to achieve different outcomes (than might be anticipated through conventional means). The R&D world has produced many important outcomes. Inevitably, the bottom line dictates that there’s only so much time/money for R&D and the pressure point for expanding such efforts is how profitable an enterprise must be to stay in business. Thus, a balance between the freedom of trial and error and the need to produce results often dictates that a good year (i.e. profitable with room for trial and error) may be followed by tighter reins on the purse and creative work may have less chance to sustain a worthy effort unless results are forthcoming. An environment which is all “optimism” and little “cautionary” is probably not going to win the day.
Expo 2020 Izmir, Dubai and Thailand
How can we become more transparent with each other?
There are numerous outcomes of the pandemic which often go unnoticed because they so quickly became part of our lives. One of those things was the ease and speed of the transformation from a “normal” business and communication life with all of the commuting, travelling, etc. that life involved to a world of Zoom calls. While many individuals and firms were quite active, before, the pandemic, on Skype, once the impact of the virus became widely understood, people quickly moved onto the Zoom platform and life, although changed, went on. I think that the fact that the cost and convenience of frequent, worldwide, communication is practically “zero”, permits and enables a level of interaction which brings with it a great degree of transparency that didn’t exist. How we interpret this and to what extent this changes things is probably more dependent on the individuals communicating than anything, so it’s not as simple as that, but it’s definitely a different environment for interaction than pre-pandemic.
Ghala Industrial Area Redevelopment Plan. Muscat, Oman
Gordon Linden invites Dr. Raymond Hoche-Mong (RHM) into conversation, a friend and sometimes collaborator both during their time together at Bechtel and later on a consulting effort for a major city in the North of China. RHM is the author of the recent book “Out of Nowhere: The Quest for the Source of Creativity” available to buy.
What prompted you to write this book?
Guest of GORDON LINDEN
From an early age, I was being called ‘creative’ by my parents and others. One example of this involved my fashioning of shoes out of discarded materials for shoeless people in the city of Cairo, Egypt, where I lived. There were subsequent examples of reusing unwanted materials for productive use which then led on to other experiences and activities which were “creative’.
My book presents findings of various efforts I’ve undertaken over the years to understand the creative process. One particularly important facet of this research relates to studies of the neuroscience of the brain and how energy charges develop and are manifest as a result of stimulus. Not all ideas which are generated by the brain are transformed into acts of creativity but the possibility is there that a particular query or requirement can lead to a creative act. It’s also important to realize that the term ‘creative’ can apply to persons in all walks of life whether they are artists or architects or doctors. In the not too distant past, creative individuals were regarded by some, including parents, as not conforming to the expected conduct of a serious person and therefore were looked down upon. We should be looking at ways to nurture and encourage creative people. School systems that are eliminating art and music programs are doing a disservice to the community by not promoting important cultural features of organized society.
Out of Nowhere: The Quest for the Source of Creativity. Raymond Hoche-Mong
Creative Leaders to look up to:
Bjarke Ingels (Architect), Liz Diller (Architect)
A Creative Practice:
Musicians who play jazz or related types of music are usually improvising a substantial part of any given song they are performing. This improvisation is actually composing music “on the fly”, that is, in the moment. This requires the application of knowledge of scales and musical rules as well as a creative approach to delivering melody, rhythm, and feeling. For the highly accomplished musician, a performance can be, depending upon the audience, a truly “out of body” experience which can make the temporary performance quite memorable. Recordings of live performances often are quite memorable and even regarded as historic by the music-loving public.
This interview contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.
Written and Edited by Julia Horvath
Image Courtesy of Gordon Linden