Architecture, the pandemic and the future of design: MECANOO
1. How did your firm handle the lockdown?
We followed this situation closely as it started to escalate in China. We fly frequently to mainland China and Taiwan, so we were alerted to ongoing changes and regulations as the country started to fight against the spread of the virus leading to the country’s lockdown.
In the early stages we reduced the amount of travelling especially to and from all the countries in a critical situation. We would ask ourselves “Do we really need to go? Can we find a different solution that doesn’t require travelling?” After our colleagues returned from these areas, they had to stay at home for a minimum of 14 days until they could return to the office.
We started to think of possible scenarios and outcomes when the virus arrived in Europe, especially seeing the impact it had in Italy. Mecanoo is a mix society, with people from 25 different countries, we understand that our company is our people, and we need to ensure that our colleagues, clients and the people surrounding us, are kept safe.
As soon as the first official cases in The Netherlands occured, Mecanoo was proactive and always followed the Dutch Government's advice on preventing the further spread of Covid-19 coronavirus. Every day we needed to process new information and understand how this could affect the daily routine of our company.
2. What new forms of work are you experimenting with and how about the results?
Around mid-March following the latest advice from the Dutch Government we moved into remote working mode. Everything had to happen very fast. The world was swept with news coming from all corners of the globe and I think all of us individually had to make sense of it in a very short amount of time.
While following the development of Covid-19 in The Netherlands, our ICT Department was already improving our network and implementing all the technical infrastructures necessary to make sure we could have as many people as possible accessing remote desktops in case further measures would take place.
We are really happy and proud of the fantastic work they did in such short period. The ICT guided our people through the installation of all required software, with technical support and online explanations. In a couple days we were all up and running and we’ve actively reached out to clients to make sure they know our business is running as usual.
Mecanoo always kept the whole team updated during this process with a high level of transparency. We provided frequent internal updates so that everything could evolve as smooth as possible and business could continue as usual while respecting the necessary steps outlined by the authorities. It was important to give a strong and positive message to all Mecanoo’s and ensure we are all in this together, as one big family.
3. How do you think this experience will affect the future management of an architectural practice?
That’s a good question, and one that will be asked many times in the upcoming future.
I would answer this question not only thinking about architecture practices, because architecture is all about multi-disciplinary teamwork. The lessons we learn from this pandemic will have a deep impact on the future of design, be it cities, public spaces, infrastructure, hospitality, etc.
But this is also the chance to embrace the digital realm like we have never done before and to showcase the profession's deep ability to adapt, collaborate, exchange and work in an interdisciplinary way.
We have all the technology and solutions available to keep the normal communication and exchange channels open: phone, e-mail, WhatsApp, Teams, Skype, Trello – and all the variety of social media platforms too. It’s impressive the number of options we have available, and in many ways the real challenge is to set up a system that works best for your office and design teams so that the design process, consultations, meetings, presentations and communication are maintained without disruption . Above all, we are committed to maintaining the high standard of our projects.