The health crisis caused by the COVID-19 has forced confinement for more than a month, which has not prevented professionals from continuing to work. This is how Cosentino's usual collaborators work in quarantine.
We are experiencing a situation that is challenging us on all fronts. A major front is the labor world, where telework has proven to be a true lifesaver. The home has mutated into an office, and the kitchen table perhaps into an improvised study. Now is the time to make the best out of every corner at home, and if there’s a collective that knows how to do that, surely it’s the guild of architects and designers.
With visiting buildings and construction sites out of the question, these professionals have to think up new ways of working in teams and engaging with clients. We wanted to know how the architects and designers who collaborate with Cosentino on a regular basis are handling the situation. This is their new normal.
A team united, now more than ever
In architecture and interior design studios, tight teamwork is the norm, with different professional profiles coming together in any single project. In such diversity, communication is of the essence, in pursuit of excellence. This has not in the least disappeared. Says Laura Gärna of Gärna Study Gallery: “At first there was some bewilderment, but now we’re trying to make the best of the situation and are moving forward in projects as well as before, if not better.”
These days, organization is key, so Gärna and her team of twelve professionals try to keep a strict but efficient calendar of meetings, and here messenger services and video conferencing are major allies. “We have a WhatsApp group for each project, hold meetings whenever necessary, share a screen…” Architects nowadays have a wide range of very helpful digital tools at their disposal, and one is the platform Cosentino.pro, which professionals log into for inspiration, information on materials, and even technical documents for reference.
Indeed Cosentino maintains its commitment to architecture and design professionals by giving them 24-hour access, through various channels, to information on materials and personalized advice.
“We are moving forward in projects as well as before, if not better.” – Laura Gärna
For the architect Octavio Mestre, a veteran with over thirty years in the sector, the philosophy for the situation is clear: “We have to make a virtue out of necessity.” The time he saves in not moving about and visiting construction sites goes to making headway in a number of endeavors, such as his own ‘arquitecture magazine, T18’, two issues of which he has managed to wrap up while on lockdown. This is the attitude that Mestre passes on to his team day after day: “our communication is fluid and projects are not delayed, though it’s true that no new commissions are coming in.”
This is a complex, unforeseen situation but there are practices of global importance, such as HCP Arquitectos, that have reacted quite speedily: “Fortunately we’ve adapted quite well to working under lockdown, and because our clientele is international, we followed the evolution of the crisis from the start, with the first outbreak in China.” As HCP design director José Luis Moreno explains, the week before Spain declared a state of emergency, the firm did a telework drill to detect possible problems. “It’s now been over three weeks of shutdown, and thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the team, this work method almost feels normal. In these circumstances the support and commitment of everyone is indispensable, and in our case the response can’t have been better,” concludes Moreno, along the lines of Laura Gärna’s account: “We used to be averse to the idea of telework and thought it would never do in our sector because we operate so much in teams, but this experience is proving it to be a real option; in fact, I feel more productive than ever.”
This confinement episode can have positive medium- and long-term repercussions. At least Octavio Mestre hopes so: “I am hoping that telework can take root in some sectors and that there can be more flexibility and work-life balance for people. If someone in our staff has a small child and performs well on the job, why shouldn’t I allow that person to continue working from home?”
“I hope there can be more flexibility and work-life balance.” – Octavio Mestre
Advantages of the new paradigm
Higher productivity is something that architects and designers seem to be quite unanimously reporting. José Luis Moreno is clear about it: “Thanks to the strong sense of team responsibility, we are seeing a rise in the productivity of all members. Not once since the quarantine began have we missed a deadline.” More time at hand, better organized meetings where key points are tackled... The professionals consulted have given a range of explanations for the increased productivity, but there is one aspect that Laura Gärna enthusiastically highlights: “we have built up a very good team spirit; we share anecdotes, laugh a lot…” Such unity in distancing would have been unthinkable in a team like Gärna’s, composed of architects and designers specialized in carrying out projects where both worlds fuse.
“We have built up a very good team spirit.” – Laura Gärna
Rediscovering that place we call ‘home’
Forced to stay home practically 24 hours, we wonder how the confinement will change our idea of home and the way we engage with it. “This was among the first things I found myself reflecting upon,” says Gärna. “In Spain we have a strong culture of being out on the streets and going out with friends. Not so in other European countries we work with, where people socialize in homes.
This may be what prompts reflection on the importance of the space one lives in. And it has nothing to do with luxury, it’s about feeling comfortable. José Luis Moreno likewise delves into the matter. For him, the ‘cultural change’ we are undergoing on account of the surge of telework triggers reflection on the home, “requiring new spaces in which to do telework, and potentially increasing demand for dwellings of the kind that is more open to the exterior, with larger, more operable windows.”
Beyond their own domestic spheres, professionals foresee major changes in their work.“ “Hospital architecture needs to be improved and optimized, as we have seen in this crisis. Perfecting hospital construction systems can save not only time, but also lives,” stresses Octavio Mestre, who knows of companies already working along these lines on a national scale.
Thinking also of the medium and long run, José Luis Moreno contemplates the current situation and speculates on the direction it could take in years to come: “So far the priorities have been good design, sustainability, energy efficiency, smart systems, and new industrialized construction solutions. Because of this crisis, building costs may once again be prioritized and limited, and much importance is bound to be given to all that has to do with Smarthomes, interpersonal communication, and homes adapted to work models.” Moderate optimism and a strong desire to keep up teamwork are the new tendencies in architecture and design. Now’s the time for quality to shine as never before. Professional quality, but also human quality.
“Because of this crsis, building costs may once again be prioritized and limited.” – José Luis Moreno