The Devil in the White City

For awhile I have wanted to read the book "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson. I finally got a chance to read the book yesterday. The book details the work in bringing the Worlds Columbian Exposition to Chicago in 1893 juxtaposed with the grim story of serial killer H.H. Holmes. Having spent a large part of my life in Chicago I find the book very well done. I like the details of the fair much more interesting than the Holmes aspects of the story. At this point you might be wondering what this has to do with software. Good question. One aspect of the exposition work includes a quote by landscape architect Francis Law Olmsted. Olmsted is described in the book as the "wizard of Central Park". In the book he outlines something that struck me as a story that is familiar today with regard to software development. Here is the quote from Olmsted. "Suppose," he wrote to architect Henry Van Brunt, "that you had been commissioned to build a really grand opera house; that after the construction work had been nearly completed and your scheme of decoration fully designed you should be instructed that the building was to be used on Sundays as a Baptist Tabernacle, and that suitable place must be made for a huge organ, a pulpit and a dipping pool. Then at intervals afterwards, you should be advised that it must be so refitted and furnished that parts of it could be used for a court room, a jail, a concert hall, hotel, skating rink, for surgical cliniques, for a circus, dog show, drill room, ball room, railway station and shot tower?" That, he wrote, "is what is nearly always going on with public parks, Pardon me if I overwhelm you; it is a matter of chronic anger with me." This story sounds very much like projects I have been on in the past.