Create Options

Learn about the challenge of bringing a change in system and modular and monolithic systems.

Challenge of changing

Imagine you are an architect, the kind that makes buildings. Now you’ve been asked to add a new wing to the iconic Sydney Opera House. Where could you possibly expand that building without ruining it? The Australian landmark is finished. It is complete, a full expression of its vision. There is no place to extend it.

Take the same request, but now for the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California 6^{6} . Here’s its description in Wikipedia:

Since its construction in 1884, the property and mansion were claimed by many, including Winchester herself, to be haunted by the ghosts of those killed with Winchester rifles. Under Winchester’s day-to-day guidance, its “from-the-ground- up” construction proceeded around the clock, by some accounts, without interruption, until her death on September 5, 1922 7^{7}.

Could you add a wing to this house without destroying the clarity of its vision? Absolutely. In some sense, continuous change is the vision of the house, or it was to its late owner. The Winchester house is not coherent in the way that the Opera House is. Stairways lead to ceilings. Windows look into rooms next door. You might call this “architecture debt.” But you have to admit it allows for change.

Not all changes require artistic abilities

The reason these differ is mechanical as much as it is artistic. A flat exterior wall on the Winchester house has the potential for a door. The smoothly curved surfaces of Sydney’s shells don’t. A flat wall creates an option. A future owner can exercise that option to add a room, a hallway, or a stair to nowhere.

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