On Making Mistakes (Molly) / by Claudia Bode

On making mistakes...oh, it’s not fun.  My stomach turns in on itself, I feel guilty and anxious.  I don’t like being in the wrong, admitting I was wrong.  My mind turns in search of whom or what else I can blame.  But deep down, I know the truth, I know I made a mistake.   

It couldn’t have been avoided completely but I could have asked earlier, I could have prevented so much un-doing and re-doing.  Our crew has been working 7 days a week living under a tarp and cooking over a fire on site. They began laying stones in the foundations on Friday when I couldn’t visit the site and by the time we got to the site on Monday they had been laying them for nearly 3 days.  A lot of large stones were in place, a lot of hard work.  What I saw were stones placed vertically, what I thought was, ‘Hm? Well, that’s different, but makes sense for getting concrete through all the stones, they’ve already laid so much...’  And since these same strip footings aren’t the main structure, (that would be the columns), I thought, ‘Okay, we’ll run with what they are used to doing.’  And that was my mistake.

Wednesday evening, after seeing photos, our engineers provided feedback that the stones can’t be vertical, over time the weight of the building will push down and the foundation will settle unevenly… The stones have to be horizontal.   Oh, how I dreaded having to tell the crew that they would have to redo the stones they’d already laid.  It’s hot, the sun is brutal, the stones are heavy.  THESE ARE REALLY BIG STONES.  I shouldn’t have let that first ‘Hm?’ pass by so easily.  I know better, which only makes me feel worse.  

Instinctively I don’t like to admit I’m wrong, who does?  It’s easier to point fingers, to find the blame in others, to look for the things that got in our way.  We’re even taught to do that in professional practice, to never put anything in writing that would indicate something is our fault, it’s professional self-preservation.  In the construction industry mistakes are expensive.  The ultimate solution would be to be perfect, but it’s so human to make mistakes.  Professional practice teaches us to always act with due diligence, to double and triple check.  But things will slip by, architecture is incredibly detailed and takes so much foresight.  The key is to learn from our mistakes, to rely on our teams to catch us where we fail before the mistakes grow.  

But I think we also shouldn’t be so afraid to admit our mistakes. I think there shouldn’t be such a stigma around making mistakes, it’s hard enough without fearing the judgement of others, or worse the judgement we place on ourselves.  

Putiyei called our crew to avoid further work being done incorrectly.  Luckily they weren’t too upset, I know they weren’t happy, but they’re amazing and began pulling out the stone.