Architecture, the pandemic and the future of design: Valerio Campi - Obicua


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: Valerio Campi - Obicua

1. How did your firm handle the lockdown?

Obicua is an architectural practice with offices in Rome and Milan. Our portfolio also includes projects in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas in a variety of fields: from tourism and hospitality to hospitals, residential projects and academic campuses, including civil, commercial, and sports buildings as well as multipurpose complexes.
This meant that during the early stages of the lockdown, when the construction sites of a number of projects we had been working on in northern Italy were shut down, we were able to continue working with a focus on the international projects which were still proceeding.
But now that other countries have also stopped construction, we are having to delay completion of our projects, and we have been taking advantage of this time to investigate a number of issues in architecture in greater depth. We are preparing to get back to work when the emergency is over. The situation is by no means easy, and the forced shutdown of the construction sites risks causing considerable damage to the industry, even without taking into consideration the fact that customers tend to halt projects rather than press for their continuation in a situation like this.

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

As I mentioned, we do a lot of work abroad, and with international partners, so we are used to remote working and management of projects and construction sites from a distance. But it’s new for us to have all our architects working from home. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, and it can work, in fact, it is working. The problem is that architecture and work in an architectural practice is all about creativity and share ideas and spaces, things that are hard to reconcile with working from home. So although working from home could be a good idea for many people, for architects it’s complicated to eliminate the physical interaction that gives rise to the best ideas.

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

I think architectural practices have learned from this experience that working from home is possible, but doesn’t work for 100% of what we do. And I believe that if the current circumstances continue, they will bring about a shrinkage in the size of our studios, in terms of the number of staff, due to the decline in the economy. On the other hand, I hope that spending a lot of time at home will demonstrate to people the importance of having a comfortable, welcoming home. This could drive growth in the home renovations market. And in the future, common spaces, commercial enterprises and public spaces will have to be redesigned to adapt them to the new lifestyle we are going to have to adopt, whether we like it or not. I hope this will bring about the re-launching of architecture that our country needs.
I’m confident that we will all come through this, with plenty of commitment, creativity and resilience. There will be a new way of reinventing our projects, going beyond the limits previously set; after the lockdown, we will benefit from an even broader vision and be able to work more effectively than before. Difficulties always give rise to new prospects and possibilities.