April 3, 2020

Canadian Architect: How will the architecture industry change after the COVID-19 crisis? Marianne McKenna offers six insights

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by Marianne McKenna

How will the architecture industry change after the COVID-19 crisis? Marianne McKenna, founding partner of KPMB Architects, offers her insights:

Greater Trust in Virtual Collaboration = Reduced Carbon Footprint
We knew that air travel was massively contributing to climate change. We were holding on to an old paradigm—that as design architects, we could only be truly effective if we showed up physically and regularly. Clients will still want the best architects for their projects, but travel will be strategic. ZOOM, Microsoft Teams and other platforms are proving that we can collaborate and communicate effectively in real time—we just need fewer meetings.

Extreme Teaming and the End of the Single Author
Co-location and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) will become the new norm. We were seeing this sharing of risk emerging with educational clients before this global crisis. The idea that all disciplines would be brought together in partnership to design and execute as a team, on-site, for intensive periods of time—as well as continuing to communicate virtually to advance solutions holistically and quickly—is exciting!

Architecture is for Humanity
As architects, Instagram and other platforms have accelerated a fixation on the single beautiful image (archi-porn). I think this will remind architects that architecture is for people—and it is not about creating a monument to ourselves.

A Reversal on the Fixation of Densification to Prioritizing Human Needs
Having so many people cooped up in condo apartments is challenging the benefit of small and vertical solutions. People thrive in spaces with light, air and views. Can we shift from trying to save the bottom line, towards designing buildings that are carbon-neutral because they reduce energy consumption and participate in regenerating resources, while also offering ample space in which to live?

Renewed Appreciation of the Shared Experience
When this is over, there will be some residue of the existentialism that is gripping us during this pandemic. How quickly will we turn back to rediscover meaning in community through our cultural spaces and the pure beauty of music and the arts? How deeply will we feel these emotions as an antidote to isolation and fear? I think we will gain a new appreciation for the spaces that bring us together through shared experiences in the arts. We will rediscover the amazing sensation of sharing the beauty of the arts as individuals, as well as recognizing an enhanced level of community through the experience of the arts.

Rethink Everything
We have been forced to hit pause. This is an opportunity to rethink everything—how we build cities and communities to be even more resilient, healthy, beautiful, green and creative.  As architects, this is our time to come together and not just imagine, but ideate and advocate for a future where the world is in harmony with nature, and where innovation and imagination are valued for solutions that enhance the quality of life.

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