Architects Cope with COVID-19 Implications
The design and construction industry has been heavily impacted by COVID-19, leaving many firms facing a dwindling stream of work to stay afloat as the world responds to the pandemic. With the unpredictable and immediate transformation of our daily routines, coupled with looming uncertainty about the future, many of us are feeling more anxious and stressed than ever before. Almost daily, the list of well-established businesses facing bankruptcy or mass layoffs lengthens, shedding a new light on the role of the “essential workers” who help keep our economic engine running. It is no surprise that architects are not considered “essential” in the traditional sense. We are not on the front lines serving in hospitals or clinics, ensuring the continued supply of food and goods, or providing human services to keep society running smoothly. While the world tries to find a semblance of “normal,” many architects are searching for ways to stay productive, maintain and establish new relationships, and help the communities where we live, work, and (used to) play. In this climate, we must reconsider our role as a bystander and leverage the broad array of tools that we, as designers, are able to offer.
Now, more than ever, we are forced to reflect upon and adjust how we occupy and interact in public space. Architects do not have to be bystanders in this process, rather we can offer our expertise in spatial analysis, visual representation, consensus building, and even fabrication. Around the world, the efforts of architects and designers are beginning to creep into mainstream media, including 3D printing face shields, ingenious interventions to encourage social distancing, mobile intensive care units, and beyond. Every day brings new inventions and proposals, which is a reinvigorating indication that our profession could play an invaluable role in future of this pandemic and beyond.
Since its founding, LRK has supported the volunteer efforts of its staff and is proud to support the communities where we work. Recognizing this real and immediate need to assist those one the front lines of this crisis, LRK recently participated in a volunteer effort led by the Community Design Collaborative (CDC). The CDC established the first ever “design SWAT team” to engage the problem-solving skills of its volunteers to meet the needs of nonprofit organizations that are serving vulnerable populations. The week-long engagement with the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, a non-profit offering services for the homeless, yielded plans to enforce social distancing guidelines, streamline meal distribution planning, alleviate congestion, and implement aesthetic updates to cheer up their guests. The effort did not require millions of dollars, only the time and critical thinking skills of a dozen architects and contractors across the city. As a long-time supporter of the CDC, we were eager to be involved in the first SWAT team and are excited to see the result the team’s efforts.
These small successes should remind us that we all play a critical role in this pandemic. Architects are, after all, tasked with protecting the health, safety, and welfare of others. By offering our knowledge of the built environment and exercising our creativity, we can support those on the front lines by alleviating environmental hazards and help flatten the curve. The COVID-19 pandemic is an architectural emergency, and we have the tools and compassion to join the fight.
Alex Bruce, AIA, CPHC