I had the privilege to be involved in an extraordinary project which already had a well defined Purpose. A client of mine, another architect, won an international competition to design and build The Maitreya Project. This was a Buddha the size of the Empire State Building, to be built in India and designed to last a thousand years. It was to be the tallest statue in the world, a working building and clad entirely in bronze so that he would glow golden in the sun. His head would be above the clouds for part of the year and one could hold meetings in the different chakra points of the Buddha’s body. To give you an idea of the size and scale of the statue. The throne on which the Buddha sits is the size of a world championship sports stadium. The back of the statue was to be made of 250,000 different effigies of the Buddha, so that when the sun shines in the sky in 500 years time, it lights up different shadows on the floor of the prayer all. This was the equivalent of the NASA space project in construction.
The Purpose of the project was tied into Buddhist writings which states the current Buddha of the earth - Shakyamuni gives over his reign to the incoming Buddha Maitreya who reigns for a thousand years. This time, it is said, heralds in a new dark age for humanity. The Purpose of the Maitreya project was to be a permanent reminder to humanity, even in it’s deepest despair, that there is a higher possibility we can strive for. Darkness is not the end, it is the light.
The Purpose of the project was clear, compelling and inspiring beyond imagination. The client for the project - a Buddhist organisation wanted to ensure that construction itself was in accordance with it’s spiritual principles. There were no towns or cities near the proposed site for the building which meant that there was no hospital for the thousands of workers needed for construction. How could we construct field hospitals to care for injuries in a way that was sustainable and potentially more advanced than any military triage facility.
I was working with the architects, construction engineers and the team as a whole to help them to embrace multi-dimensional creativity and to think in new and paradigm-shifting ways. It was extraordinary. Senior architects who had designed signature buildings would say things like “I would do anything to be working on this project. I would be happy to design toilets and door handles”. They’re not interested per se in toilets and door handles, that is the work for junior and apprentice architects. What interested them was the Purpose of the project and how they could devote themselves to it.
Purpose, it seems, is far more fulfilling than any task; knowing what our work is for rather than the work itself.
Richard JACOBS is the C.E.O of YES, a leading Culture Change Consultancy specialised in mindset and behavioural change that designs and implements large scale transformation programs. Richard has been designing training, change programmes and media for 25 years. He has personally trained over 300,000 people, has won numerous awards and is a pioneer in his field integrating interactive theatre, improvisation, graphic novel storytelling and dynamic exercises into his programmes. He is a sought after speaker and the author of the groundbreaking books: "What's your Purpose?" , “The 7 Questions to find your Purpose” and the forthcoming "Rides of Passage".