Architecture, the pandemic and the future of design: Khosla Associates

Khosla Associates,

Medical Emergency Covid19,

In only a few months, everything has changed completely. Even the world of architecture. In search of possible new scenarios, Floornature opens the discussion of a new approach to design for a time of public health emergency, publishing a series of interviews with architects all over the world.
How are the big studios organising their work, and what has been the impact of the current situation on smaller architectural practices?
What does it mean to design infrastructure, cultural centres and living spaces while avoiding social contact?
Might the resilience we seek in buildings also be applicable to the profession of architect?
Here are the architects’ responses, some in text form and others in videos, in the usual style of our portal.

Architecture, the pandemic and the future of design: Khosla Associates

1. How did your firm handle the lockdown?

Sandeep Khosla : Since there are currently no site visits and travel and all construction activity in India has come to a grinding halt, we are taking this opportunity to strengthen the design process on our existing projects. Also we are attemping design collaboration remotely for the first time . As team members are working in isolation and we are suddenly not that nimble, I expect the time taken on design presentations to considerably slow down till we get the hang of it. One upside is that there is definitely more design and ideating time for the principals (myself and Amaresh). I therefore expect more innovation to come out of these circumstances.

Amaresh Anand: As soon as our state government declared a semi-lockdown, we responded by working at half-strength, in two shifts. A lot of our employees are from out of town and we soon realised that their families were getting anxious. In the interest of the well-being of our staff, we had to come up with a module so that we can work from home effectively. We ensured that every one carried the required data or even computers home. Since we work in teams, we made the team leaders a one point contact for all discussions on their respective projects. Sandeep and I interact with each other and then with the team leaders. The team leaders in turn communicate the same with their respective teams. This ensures that nothing is lost in translation. We communicate our design ideas with the team leaders via zoom/skype calls, whatsapp and emails and are also presenting our design concepts to clients via video conferencing. Discussions with our consultants are also done now through video conferencing. All of us now continue to work from home fairly efficiently.

2. What new forms of work are you experimenting with and how about the results?

Sandeep Khosla: I think that drawing, sketching and editing on an ipad has been quite liberating. During this Covid Lockdown, we have had limited access to our printers and working on paper. Marking up pdfs and creating quick sketches on the Ipad has been an effective experiment and the results have been good.

Amaresh Anand: We are experimenting with working virtually on all pre-construction activities. So far its been successful.

3. How do you think this experience will affect the future management of an architectural practice?

Sandeep Khosla: I feel that as we get better at working remotely, we might find the need to travel less and only when necessary. Airline fares will certainly go up in the coming months and we might find that most client meetings can be done on Zoom or Skype. Travel might become restricted to important site meetings.

Amaresh Anand: Our staff has been incredible and we have received immense support from them in this difficult time. One thought that comes to mind is to give the staff an option to work from home for a few days spread across the year. This way they can spend time with their dear ones while working, as it seems crucial for mental/physical health and happiness.