Designing in a COVID-19 World: by Kristin Purdy, AIA

A couple months ago, it was business as usual – in-person meetings with clients, site visits with my design teams, and trips to the coffee spot across the street for the occasional mid-morning pick-me-up. Fast forward to today, when my kitchen is also my “break room” and my childhood desk now houses my work laptop and a second monitor propped up with a pillow, some non-slip cabinet liners, and painters’ tape.


Purdy

I think most people would agree that COVID-19 has completely disrupted our “normal” routines both at work and at home. It appears that social/physical distancing is here to stay, at least for a little while longer. Only time and insight into this new virus can help us figure out what comes next on many fronts. For our profession, where collaboration and connection with others is a crucial part of how we design and work, I find myself curious how social/physical distancing will impact our profession and our design approach. I know I personally miss going into work and interacting face-to-face with my colleagues and clients. The scheduled meetings to review a project and the impromptu run-ins at the water cooler broke up my day a little differently than a Microsoft Teams or WebEx meeting seem to from my home office.


As designers and problem-solvers, we take a need and help find the best solution to address it. When I actively remind myself to look at this coronavirus situation as a design opportunity and not a challenge (though a challenge it certainly is for many reasons), I believe as designers we have been presented with numerous design opportunities – inside and outside of the work environment.


For a minute, please consider the following questions. What design measures, if any, have you taken to create an office or classroom for your children at home? How have you separated your work space from your living space so you can turn your mind off a little easier at the end of the work day? What technology have you leaned on or learned recently to communicate and work more effectively with your design teams and clients? Now that you’ve eliminated your morning commute, how have you redistributed that time to other meaningful tasks? What innovative or creative tactics have you employed to navigate this coronavirus world in which we are all living? When I reflect on these questions, I realize that I have been designing solutions and creating new habits that I will likely carry with me moving forward.


I have no doubt that this health crisis will change how we design buildings for our clients and impact our community in the future. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know right now what that will look like. Together however, we can design for that world when it gets here and, in the meantime, we can design solutions to help us and our families adapt to this new, unanticipated world we are living in.


Stay safe, stay well, and keep designing.


Purdy is an architect at SWBR and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of The Architectural Foundation of Greater Rochester.


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