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Statue of Liberty: a risky and complex construction project  

Statue of Liberty: a risky and complex construction project  

Statue of liberty on liberty island

It is speculated that the idea to build the Statue of liberty was born during a conversation between Édouard René de Laboulaye, a French antislavery activist, and Frederic Bartholdi a famous French sculptor. According to Bartholdi, who later mentioned said he was inspired by Laboulaye’s comments which was not a proposal.

So, we can deduce say that Edouard Réné de Laboulaye was the project sponsor and Frederic Auguste Bartholdi the project manager or project owner, even though this was not official. But one thing is certain, the statue was the brain child of Bartholdi who directed the project from A to Z. He was so inspired by the conversation that without any official agreement or detailed plans, he immediately build the right hand with the torch.

The Statue of Liberty today stands tall near the New York harbor as a symbol of liberty! It was erected to mark the centenary of America’s Independence. Today It attracts millions of visitors from all over the world. But what can its construction teach us about project management? Let’s see some of the lessons a project manager can learn from the statue.

From a project management perspective, the most intriguing and fascinating aspect of this construction project, apart from is size and beauty, is the way the project was financed. It was a major challenge. It was decided that France would finance the statue and the Americans would pay for the pedestal.

So Laboulaye, in order to seek public support, created a Franco-American Union as a fund-raising vehicle. A collection campaign was launched from 1875 to 1880. The Union was very successful in raising fund from all sections of French society. Ordinary citizens, elites, companies and various French municipalities contributed a lot of money for the statue. Total funding amounted to 1,000,000 francs, a very high sum at the time.

On the Americans’ side, at the centenary exhibition of 1876 the right hand with the torch way displayed and it was a central element in the fundraising process. During this exhibition, the Americans bought many photographs or spin-off objects, which contributed to its financing. But it was not enough.

The Franco-American Union created a group in America called American Committee which was tasked to raise extra fund, but it couldn’t raise the required amount.

So, a renowned publisher Joseph Pulitzer decided to launch a fundraising campaign in his newspaper the New York World. This campaign also raised money from all sections of the society for example from young children, businessmen, street cleaners and politicians. Around 80% of the donations amounted to less than a dollar. The fund-raising campaign was a huge success.

Although collective financing of projects has existed since millennia, we can say with certainty that the fund-raising campaign of the statue of liberty was a pioneer in crowdfunding. It is crowd funding at its best and on a large scale. So, in case you are on a construction project without any funding, then crowd funding might be the solution.

When the statue was finished, there was a ceremony to formalize the gift of France to the United States. On July 4, 1884, which is the day of independence of the United States, the statue was presented to the American ambassador at a ceremony in Paris, France. The 350 different parts of the statue were built separately and later assembled in Paris. It was later dismantled and shipped to New York and then assembled at the pedestal, on the liberty island, in New York Harbor. This is an excellent example of work break down structure in project management. It is efficient and smart to break down the construction project into small and executable parts and then later bring all the parts together to make the final end product.

On October 28, 1886, the then President of the United States, Grover Cleveland inaugurated the statue. Although the statue was built to commemorate the centenary of the declaration of independence of the United States, it was inaugurated 10 years late (1776: Declaration of Independence -1886: Inauguration of the Statue of Liberty). Despite the delay the Statue of Liberty stands 151 feet (46 meters) in height, and 305 feet (93 meters) from the ground to the torch.