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Expertise and trust in it are strongly under attack these days. Solid information increasingly devalues to fake news. Highly educated antivaxxers refuse the vaccination of their children. Last week, Amsterdam welcomed a symposium of flat earthers, a growing group of people who think the earth is flat and the spherical earth is a NASA hoax. The soap concerning the renovation of the Binnenhof (the housing of the Dutch parliament) also demonstrates fundamental distrust between the parties involved.

Interestingly enough, trust is increasingly becoming a key concept in design tenders. Tendering contracts are increasingly undefined and, in a way, messier. A design brief, budgetary frameworks, the way the process is organized and the distribution of responsibilities – more and more, we have to sort these things out ‘together’ in the course of the process. A fixed fee is mandatory, nonetheless.

Similar issues play a role in construction tenders as well. In order to attract any interest of construction parties at all, clients increasingly opt for a ‘construction team method’. As a result, construction parties become involved in the design process to come to contractual frameworks, but virtually without risks. Moreover, the roles and responsibilities for design work on the one hand and construction work on the other often remain unclear. Who monitors who, who controls the quality and budgetary frameworks and with which and whose mandate?

Without clear responsibilities, associated authority and transparency in knowledge, costs and motives, trust often quickly turns into distrust. Moreover, cognitive dissonance is constantly lurking. Regularly, parties make agreements of which everyone involved realizes they are untenable. In addition, the demonstrating of inaccuracies in assumptions or reasoning make some people hold on to their viewpoints even more doggedly. In a recent documentary, the flat earthers accidentally proved their own wrong: their measurements showed that the surface of the earth is indeed curved. In response, they did not return home enlightened, but diverted the discussion toward optical margins of error and the influence of the weather.

Ronald Schleurholts, architect partner cepezed

Cobouw, October 7th 2019

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