Thieme Hennis 1052381 06-09-2006

Sky City, science making fiction reality
Sometimes you have to acknowledge that Science Fiction is closer than you think. The project I have chosen, might be one of the biggest engineering projects in times; it is the Tokyo initiative of Sky City, Japan. Although Japan, outside the city borders, has enough land available for development, out of religious standpoint they do not choose for expanding living areas. Instead, the metropolis of Tokyo has come up with a breathtaking unprecedented plan: building a city in the sky. The “city” in fact will be, according to the current design, 1000 meters high building, accommodating 35.000 residents, and provides a place for another 100.000 workers. 1 Without a doubt this is a Large Engineering Project can be, therefore almost all the characteristics will be applicable. The assignment though, is to choose a few of these characteristics and elaborate on them, and in addition show the impact on management.

1. Uniqueness
First of all there is the uniqueness of the project. Size. This uniqueness represents itself mainly in size, which has quite some consequences. The sheer size of the project inhibits an enormous amount of resources, and investments. It will be the biggest building in history, but in order to create this, there is a process of designing and redesigning which takes years, if not decades. Subsequently the construction itself will incredibly resource intensive, and thousands of workers and engineers will be working constantly on it. Technology. Although building techniques have been improved for millenniums, you can say that we here talk of a unique technology. It is unique, because the through the size of the projects, new ways of building have to be invented in order to safely create an end product of great quality, with limited resources. One can think of new materials, but also the production of these new materials: like in the Airbus A380, this building will new entirely new construction materials. To make these materials, new machines are needed, and so on. This required an extended form of subcontracting. Application. A building is a building one could say, and maybe one would agree that this would be a special building, but what really makes this unique in terms of application or purpose, is the fact that this will be a much more than a building, as the name suggests: it will be a city. That means that people will find most/all the characteristics of a midsize city: parks, transportation modes, restaurants, companies, stores etc. People do not need to leave the building any more, most probably because a part of them will be working in it as well. Pictures and cynical drawings of people living as ants in a big mechanical system make sense now. Having in mind the average free time one has in Japan, one can imagine that people will be ‘outside’ only a few times a year.

2. Interdependence of design
Obviously for this project maintaining and controlling one or a few designs will be impossible. Designs will be needed for every aspect of the project, and all these designs are interrelated. When to build what, how does it look like, and how does it relate to other designs? These are all questions that should be asked, but many times cannot be answered. One can assume that for this project multiple designs and sub-designs are needed for every system and sub-system. Transportation system, social system, sewage system, safety system, air filter system, civil engineering system and ecology system are all systems that are not only very sizable, but also interrelated. The social system imposes a large set of criteria upon the transport system and network, safety measures, expressed in designs, can be contradictory to the air filter system design, and so on. It takes a large volume of communication between the teams and departments to let these designs correspond. Impact on management The uniqueness of this project has significant impacts on the management, but before we are drawing conclusions, it is wise to shortly explain some cultural factors. Management in France has another meaning than it has in Denmark, like it has in Japan. Japan is being characterized by a high uncertainty avoidance, high masculinity, medium power distance and individualism, according to the famous research done by Hofstede. In this case, the high uncertainty avoidance can cause some problems, mainly during the construction phase. A high uncertainty avoidance means that unless there is a strict plan, not much work is being done, due to fear of doing something wrong. Especially during construction, when a lot of problems can be expected, this attitude can be fatal. Therefore managers should put aside their pride and empower the people on the job and on the drawing table. Secondly the issue of subcontracting can be quite important. The whole project will depend on ontime deliveries, the right quality etc. With a great number of subcontracts the probability that a
1

http://www.takenaka.co.jp/takenaka_e/techno/63_sky/63_sky.htm

supplier offers low quality, or a designer company encounters problems and runs out of time, is high. On the other hand, in Asia, and also in Japan, workers share a less individualistic view, they feel they are part of a bigger whole, which is more important. The broad scope of the project influences managing it in a way that it should be realized that not only a building view should be hold. A social view is essential, because in the end people will spend most of their lives in this technological marvel. A positive aspect for the problem owner, the Japanese government, is that culturally there is an enormous respect for the ruling power; this means that discussing and elaborating about place, design, costs etc. like happens in the Netherlands is not necessary. In other words; they can act more decisive. The more holistic view, as explained earlier (subcontracting), is of importance in the design questions as well. Where one can expect American designers of a sub-system taking this their subsystem more seriously than others, Japanese designers will be able to link to other designs more and take into account the whole picture. In this project thousands and thousands of specialists of different backgrounds and domains will have to design one coherent whole. In order not to make too many errors, and let the designs correspond to each other, as little layers as possible should be used in communication. Another important aspect where management should focus on is the earlier mentioned empowerment of lower management.