Many many many years ago, before any one of us knew the words like COVID19, social distancing… I saw a glimpse of how life can be for architects. To be more precise, how meetings can be… Let me explain.￼￼
The year was 2007. It was at the time I was working at a big corporate architecture office grinding away￼￼ The life of Junior ARCHITECT.￼
It was at the time of endless meetings, both at our office, engineers’ office, client’s office, and also at the project site ( aka job site)￼. Not only all of us working on the project got tired of attending these meetings but we also questioned whether these meetings were even necessary.￼￼
The joke Among my colleagues by the water cooler was asking each other how many meetings they had per week.￼￼￼that was the life of architects…
And then one day, I saw something I would never forget.
While passing by one of the glass-walled conference rooms I heard one of the people Talking… Not talking to the rest of the people in the room, but towards the computer screen.￼￼
I was not sure why I was surprised to see the scene. It was not like it was my first time seeing the digital communication￼…. certainly watched many movies to know that the technology existed. ￼ I was surprised that this type of technology can be part of our life, more specifically my life.
The background story of that particular meeting has to do with money, lots of it; the particular project was based in the Middle East which would require a big expense for everyone involved in the project to fly in. For obvious financial reasons, everyone involved in the projects( Clients, engineers, numerous consultants, us architects)￼￼￼￼￼￼￼, could not be in the same place at the same time….not often anyway. It was too costly… also, a logistical nightmare to bring everyone together in one place.￼ Therefore the computer screen in each office and digital communication has to be implemented.
Teamwork will be done digitally/efficiently￼
With this new crisis, we all have been forced to hit pause.
We are forced to think, act, communicate differently. It is an opportunity for us to rethink how we work and live and play, especially the work part.
Recently I finished the project without having single meetings. To be more precise, It was not a project but a proposal to get the project. However, this particular proposal required many consultants’ inputs, therefore, the coordination was a huge component in the overall work.
While going through many digital hiccups( no sound on video calls because I did not turn on the volume), as well as surprises￼￼( seeing clear drawings on the computer screen for all of us to make comments and notes directly on the screen), I suddenly had a huge realization: I am liking this!
I noticed something else….all of us involved in the video call, our communication style changed, to be more precise, it improved: to be more direct, more focused, more listening( ok, this positive attribute had to happen since all of us has to listen to one another).
The whole meeting lasted approximately 40 minutes which would normally take about two hours to finish. Of course, that is not counting the commute time getting to meeting locations. Instead of 4 hours of meetings, we were able to wrap it up in 40 minutes!
I’m starting to see some benefits(?) from this forced isolation thing:)￼
A newfound appreciation for outdoors and outdoor space, outdoor projects, everything outdoor
We architects have always appreciated the outdoor space.￼…it’s just that we don’t get to spend too much time thinking about it… let alone designing it. With THE overarching guideline of a project, (aka BUDGET), ￼￼￼ outdoor space tends to be the last thing to ponder over…unless it is the number of parking spaces which would be a whole new topic for another post￼￼￼.
Throughout this crisis, we all learned the importance of outdoor space…we just didn’t know￼ how much. Now that we are forced to stay indoor, we have a new appreciation and urgent necessity for￼ being outdoor; taking in fresh air, views. and people.
There are many hospital design studies done to show The importance of outdoor space for Patients well being both physically and also mentally. As architects, we are aware of the benefits from the outdoor space,￼￼ and it is time for us to ensure the same importance can be incorporated into not only the hospital projects, but every projects.
Furthermore, It is not only the physical space we designers have to think about but also how these spaces are going to be used by people.￼￼￼ Although Mr. Louis Sullivan (aka famous architect)’s “form follows function” phrase was intended for building shape, this particular phrase feels relevant in our time we collectively going through.
Everyone is interconnected￼￼
Now more than ever, I realize the importance of the COMMUNITY. Whether that being the close family /friends￼￼, neighbours, strangers, we are ALL going through this same difficulty￼ together; friends in New York City, relatives in Korea, coworkers family members in India, everyone.
I cannot think of a time when ALL of us for going through the SAME difficulties and challenges.￼￼￼￼ I am also realizing that this could be an opportunity to rethink everything-how we live, think, communicate with others.￼￼
Like all the other industry professionals, we architects have additional responsibilities; how we build cities and communities to be more resilient, healthy, green, creative… but above all else to imagine a space for all of us to thrive in a happy and healthy environment.
This crisis we are experiencing is not just a medical/ health challenge, but it is giving us a lesson in how all of us live, be connected, and beyond… being part of the community… As a designer, we have a unique position to see and visualize how all of us can live and thrive living with others.
As the saying goes, “it shall pass”, we will return to the life we know; sipping coffee at a favourite coffee shop￼￼, going for a run without having to worry about passing other runners, and also having the necessary physical meetings time to time.
It’s just that we cannot go back to the same place once we were before.