By the way, my experience in this world has taught me that people don’t get far in business unless they believe they are right and will stick to their guns. Being a “yes”-man to a boss will take you only part way toward the top.
Of course, there are times when I’ve been right but I don’t win the argument. In such cases, I am content because I have pointed out to the client what would be the benefits of doing something in the way that I recommended versus the way chosen by someone else, usually the architect. A good example is the Los Angeles Century City triangular building known as the “theme complex.” Architect Minoru Yamasaki wanted no columns between the triangular vertices on the first floor, an expanse of more than 200 feet, to create the effect that the more than 40 stories of office floors appear to be held up by just three end-point columns. I argued two counts with the architect and with Alcoa, the owners of Century City. One, we could achieve the same effect from the exterior view by having several columns in the middle of each side of the triangle; they would not be visible from the exterior because they would surely be hidden by drapes. Two, that having only three columns at the apexes would be very costly, since we would have to first construct a “Vierendeel” truss system across each of the three fa£ades, extending from the second floor to the top of the building. This would delay the construction of the individual floors until we had finished the truss. If there were columns in the middle, there would be no need for a truss system, and we could pour those concrete floors as we built toward the sky.
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I lost the argument. Alcoa chose to do it Yamasaki’s way and we proceeded with the construction, putting in the Vierendeel truss system so that there are only columns at the apexes. Doing things that way cost a whole lot more than if we had put in interior columns, but Alcoa was willing to foot the expense.
The kicker for me, though, is that the vast expanses at the first floor, under the trusses and between the three legs of the triangular building, cannot be appreciated from the outside anyway, because as I suspected would happen window drapes and office partitions were installed along the entire length of the building.
Nonetheless, I was content because I had made the argument and my points had been understood. The architect and owner simply chose to go another way, but they did so knowing the true cost of the open floors would be extraordinary and, more importantly, the project would require many extra months to build, since no interior work could commence until the truss system had been completed at roof level.
In the old days, Uncle Norman and I would regularly have conversations in which I’d say, “I feel that we ought to do it this way,” and he would invariably answer, “What do you mean ‘you feel’? Say ‘I think.’ Either you have logical reasons for making a recommendation, or you don’t.”
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