COVID-19 has thrown our lives into disarray. Many people have suddenly lost their source of income without little to no prospects for finding a new job. We are certainly looking into a possible economic disaster which may be as serious as the one in 2008. We at jobs.archi decided to look into the current situation of architects and architecture students. We asked you on our Instagram Profile how are you dealing with the pandemic in your country and gathered some information.
It is safe to say that most architects stay at home and work remotely. Some firms allowed employees to work from home even before pandemic. For them transition from working in the office to working at home was a smooth one. However there were bureaus that had to adapt quickly into the new reality, therefore facing problems like server handling, program licences, equipment usage etc.
There is of course another problem with home office, which is not technical. It may be even the biggest challenge: communication. Of course there are ways to communicate – not only via phones but also via internet and video conferences. However it is safe to say that it won’t be a long-term substitute for human contact which is important to every person’s well-being. Also speaking as a junior architect – not being able to ask technical questions to more experienced colleagues on the fly, has been a major setback to my workflow.
There also is a matter of being able to maintain discipline. To draw a line between work and home – which now is blurred more than ever. There is a matter of other family members distracting us from work, or daily house activities that get in our way. There also is the miraculous ability to jump out of bed, turn on your computer and bam! You’re already at work. Suddenly you look at the clock and its 1 PM and you are still in your pajamas and to make things worse you have 30 minutes to be on construction site. Many of us also work longer hours not being able to maintain the border between work and home.
CONSTRUCTION SITES AND PROJECTS
Despite COVID-19 pandemic many projects that are under construction or have entered the design phase have not stopped. However clients and stakeholders don’t want to sign other contracts and have delayed projects which are fairly new. This means work for most of us has been slower and smaller studios are facing a serious problem of whether to be or not to be.
As construction sites aren’t closed, meetings happening traditionally on construction sites should find a new medium. However, as architects need to coordinate the construction, it is often not possible to do it remotely.
What is more there are other difficulties: accessibility to products and materials needed to complete the building are now in many cases limited and the prices have gone higher. There is also a matter of permits for projects which are now harder to obtain and financing from investors which is also now more problematic to get.
OVERALL ECONOMIC BACKLASH
All of these problems may cause serious economic recession. Many of us fear the consequences of pandemic which cause additional anxiety within any professional community. The fact that many projects are cancelled and work is slower than usual, is causing financial problems within offices. The fact that we simply don’t know when the pandemic will end and if we will go back to normal world, is raising questions of the future of the whole profession.
It was still possible to find a new job a little over a month ago. However this quickly changed mid-march or so. Because of financial problems most offices simply cancelled all the interviews. There still are some companies however, who found themselves in need of new employees. The downside is the terms of the employment may be worse than usual. For instance one of our readers is working in France and was to start working for a studio. However due to a changing situation they don’t work there on a contract. Instead they had to quickly start their own company and work as a freelancer.
We certainly can’t forget about those who will finish their studies in time of economic crisis. We are talking about students, who right now can’t go to their universities and are also working from home. It is certainly a difficult time for them as well. Not only many professors are simply not prepared to give online classes (due to not being skilled enough digitally for instance), but also it is harder than ever to get feedback from a professor right now. You consult your projects via e-mail and sometimes via phone but it won’t be the same feedback you would get when consulting eye-to-eye.
It is also a difficult time for those who are more susceptible to stress or have simply problems with working alone. It is easy to find yourself loaded with uni work, working constantly or not being able to concentrate properly. As meetings with other students to unwind are also impossible, students may have a hard time to adjust.
Although some universities have postponed the deadlines of projects for a couple of weeks, it is still a very stressful time to learn how to be an architect right now.
THE GOOD SIDE
As the situation is serious and grim, we also wanted to briefly discuss some good things that we may experience. For instance home office is an excellent opportunity to get more free time. When you live in a busy city and your transportation to work is taking you 2 hours a day, not having to go to the office is a massive time saver. This is an excellent opportunity to get some personal projects done and spend more time with your family. Many architects who may have less at work to do, take online classes or create webinars for others. It is, after all, a perfect time to polish existing skills and to acquire new ones.
THE FUTURE OF ARCHITECTURE
The pandemic has forced architects to consider the future of the whole profession. Right now we are in the process of completely changing the way we work: the way we communicate, design and even perceive architecture as a whole. It is hard and stressful and we face many problems while doing so. However we strongly believe that after the crisis we may discover a new side to our profession.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE?
We would love to hear from you! Tell us about how you are dealing with COVID-19 and how is your work? How does it look like in your country? What are your fears and hopes for after the crisis? Let us know in the comments!