In this book, the authors compared the present construction process of buildings to that of the automobile, ship building and aerospace industry. This is not new (remember Towards a New Architecture?). While Corb's book talked about end products, this talks about processes. Indeed, the authors presented some impressive research evidence on how the building construction industry can learn from these neighbors by sharing many common features of process and final product between industries.
However, what is not clear as an example, is the articulated, and perhaps even necessitated need for a building to emulate the joint tolerances of a car or an airplane. While the latter can sometimes determine the life and death of the user, a "half-inch tolerance" on a hospital facade will occur over the "millimeters" simply because there is no pragmatic need for such an emulation. This is, of course, not even an excuse for the lack of craft, but a statement that there should be a real need presented before a necessitated manifestation in form to occur. One simply should not look over to the greener pastures for the sake of doing so. The book is peppered with many such unclear determination and one has to really specify what kind of architecture does what, in a rather blunt way, before assuming with this pretense that emulation is good. Spirit of the Age has erred twice now over the raison d'etre.
The second major criticism for this book is the uncritical constant comparision between the building and the <car, ship, plane>. As much as I can appreciate the way automakers think of creative ways to make money from us, the allegedly "creative" folks through the streamlining of the process, a car differs vastly from a building because of context. Sure, context is too well hyped these days but surely we can speak the same for a plane or car in any context but we cannot do the same for every building we make. A car is driven in Asia or Europe but a building, as the authors noted, does not move very much. Context, therefore, as well as the ill-defined problem space of design is the problem here.
Thirdly, one cannot talk about refabricating architecture without commenting on the economical, labor structure of our society. Who are the conceptual workers of this industry? What is their wage and labor structure like? We simply cannot compare industry to industry on such a macro-scale because some fundamental aspect, though microscopic at this scale, dictates much of the process. The automobile or aerospace engineer can streamline their methods compared to architectural designers because of a marked difference between their wage, working and corporate conditions. What about forms of insurance, legal laws governing these different industries? All these are "form-makers" of the design process too. One cannot proceed to such an unbridled admiration of other design processes without at least commenting on these discrepancies.
The only salvation, in my opinion, of this book, remains to be the salvation of an architect's vision (architects, in this case of two authors). The very last part of the book displayes what modern architects are trained best to do, a marketable vision, possibly manifested in physical or representational format. While this remained as one of the rare books out there to tackle difficult topics of architectural process and methods, it needs a rigorous rework and editing (and perhaps peer review) before what is simplistically presented can be deemed as a useful reference for folks out there who is trying to do what the authors intended.
As a last reminder, F. Brunelleschi had the might of the Medici's empire backing him when he invented the cranework or the shell of the Dome. One simply cannot compare singularities in history with the challenges that the small to medium size offices face in this country everyday.
(The author of this review is not an Architect, but is interested in design in the larger context.)