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Architectural offices in a pandemic

22 of April '20

The crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak has affected many professional circles. Has it hit the architecture industry, and to what extent? Based on interviews with twenty Polish architects, a report has been compiled on the current situation in the industry.

Investors are not stopping work

All studios interviewed by the report's authors declared uninterrupted work on projects started before the outbreak.

We are still working on projects started before the epidemic state. As for the joint creation of presentations or work on visualizations - we conduct them remotely, communicating via Skype and Google tools, which allow, among other things, sharing a screen with conference participants and working together on a project in real time. We are also not giving up supervision on construction sites - here video calls are helpful," explains architect Magdalena Federowicz-Boule, CEO of Tremend.
At the moment we are operating without any major obstacles. Of course, the entire studio is in home office mode, but this does not significantly hinder our work. Construction has not been halted, we contact the teams by exchanging photos. We personally appear on site 2-3 times a week, but after the work has been completed, out of concern for mutual safety. There are some slowdowns, but at the moment there is no cause for concern," points out architect Jacek Tryc, board member of the Association of Interior Designers, Jacek Tryc interiors.
[...] Clients are moving to zoom or hangout meetings without a problem. My impression is that the new circumstances have a mobilizing effect on decision-making or contract signing. Contractors and their workshops are working. [...]," concludes Anna Olga Chmielewska of the JAM Kolektyw studio.

environment well prepared for the crisis

Architects unanimously declared that the specifics of their profession allow them to work remotely without major inconveniences. What's more, their previous experience with remote orders allowed them to quickly adapt to the current situation.

We have dozens of interior projects to our credit, completed from start to finish without a direct face-to-face meeting with the investor. In fact, the remote project work process differs very little from the standard one. Most clients, after the first face-to-face meeting, due to lack of time, commuting, etc., prefer email and telephonecontact. If necessary, we arrange additional online meetings. We discuss individual solutions with the help of screen sharing, we also prepare photorealistic visualizations. We can provide the entire project documentation, as well as the contract, invoices, etc., to the investor in electronic form," emphasizes architect Ida Mikołajska, co-owner of MIKOŁAJSKAstudio.
Most of the projects we are working on are at the design stage, so our work proceeds without major changes. We work on the largest project, which involves more than a dozen people, using screen sharing so we can make corrections and exchange ideas," explains architect Agnieszka Stefanska, who runs the Infini-Design studio.
I'm very lucky, because my team was well prepared to work in home office mode, and it runs without the slightest problem. We are continuing to work on large projects - preparing concepts and detailed drawings. We travel for supervision when necessary. It's much calmer, we concentrate on the tasks," says architect Anna Koszela, owner of the Interior Architecture office . Anna Koszela-Krawczyk.
The sheer level of remote work has not reduced our results in any way. It must be admitted that at the beginning of the pandemic it was the author's supervision that required a new approach to the subject. Nowadays, we contact contractors via video conference and control the progress of work," explains Marta Drzymała, co-owner of the Madama studio.
If it is necessary for us to visit, it is done without third parties, and we discuss the details by phone. We do not give up and keep working," adds Agata Frątczak, co-owner of the Madama studio.
The studio has gone into home office mode. Meetings with clients are also not taking place. However, our cooperation is based on trust, and we have a free hand in many issues. Having the experience of working remotely after foreign projects (London, Munich, Bali, Holland), we settle the remaining issues by e-mail or during teleconferences," says Grzegorz Goworek of the studio STUDIO. O.

Aleksander Jankowski (JIO Jankowski and Opyrchał Pracownia Projektowa), an architect, sees the situation similarly:

Despite the difficult situation, we are not slowing down and continue to implement projects remotely, we were prepared for this. As for the future - I always see it as an opportunity. Even in the worst of times, you can plan for a better, more valuable space to work and live in. The key is to have a plan, to be able to put it into practice, adapting the company and operations to the new conditions.
For the sake of convenience and out of respect for our clients' time, we have always tried to introduce solutions at Decoroom that would make it easier and faster to work with architects in the interior design process. Good e-mail and telephone contact is standard. Now we additionally use teleconferencing. We create visualizations and provide clients with design dashboards, so we can make changes in real time and incorporate any comments. Consultations run extremely smoothly. Very importantly, we use the E-Signaturetool, which allows us to accept and sign documents remotely," says Adam Budzynski, vice president of Decoroom.

biggest obstacles

In terms of impediments to work, the most frequently cited obstacle was the inability to present samples of selected materials directly to customers.

The biggest impediment for us is the abandonment of the presentation of samples, which we have so far used on a daily basis during presentations. Now we have to return to online catalogs, which do not reflect the nature of the products as much. Nevertheless, we work in peace, because we can count on the understanding of investors," explains architect Pawel Sokół, co-owner of EXITDESIGN, Bajer | Sokół TEAM.

Another often-mentioned impediment was the unfavorable conditions for working at home, caused by the combination of professional and family responsibilities.

[...] Work is not easy, because the conditions are specific, and the hustle and bustle at home does not help concentration... However, I try to make the most of my working day so that Miśkiewicz Design's designs are always beautiful," emphasizes Magdalena Miśkiewicz, who runs the Miśkiewicz Design studio.

Among the mentioned inconveniences, there was also the lack of direct contact, which was a source of mutual inspiration.

I extremely miss direct meetings, which are always a great inspiration and multi-layered value. Art IN Architecture is a team of artists that I lead both as a creator and a space designer. Each of us now works in our own studio, in seclusion focusing on our artistic work. I was helped a lot by the quick adaptation of the attic into my pandemic studio, I have thus retained the comfort of functioning and a space of artistic freedom. So we are now betting on the works that are presented in the Gallery, which now functions mainly on the Internet. Both inside and outside the team, we contact each other through available tools with vision and written content, uploaded photographs and recordings. Adapted tools also have their advantages: they bridge the distances that separate us from each other and give us the opportunity to be virtually in different interiors. This, of course, is no substitute for personal contact with the work, live, in context. We look forward to this relationship. - says designer Agnieszka Leszczyńska-Mieczkowska (AINA), (Art IN Architecture).


At present, the studios are operating without major obstacles, but their situation depends on the further development of economy-wide conditions. It is difficult to forecast, but the environment is slowly preparing for the outbreak of the economic crisis.

At the moment we can talk about a small suspension. Some people are postponing decisions on finalizing the finishing of apartments, completing projects or, perhaps, finalizing the purchase of real estate. I am most concerned about the collapse of the real estate market, which may affect the demand for interior designers' services in the long term. At the moment, the fact that offices are not working in the normal way is holding up many investments and prolonging their finalization, because the appropriate permits and documents cannot be obtained, notes architect Izabela Widomska, owner of the Izabela Widomska Wnętrza studio.
Something unexpected has happened that has a significant impact on us and the world we live in. A number of discussions attempting to define the existing state of affairs and, consequently, to predict the development of events are today bogged down by a huge number of unknowns. This is not "just" the speculative financial crisis of 2008. The epidemic has hit the capital-creating economy in real terms. Some industries were even wiped out, others weakened. Hope for a quick rebound is diminishing with each passing month. We must be ready for hard times," states architect Roland Stańczyk, owner of RS Studio Projektowe office.
We will find out how much we are able to do without personal contact, that there are tools to support communication and that it is a pure time saver. This is a golden time for IT companies offering such tools. It will turn out that teaching (one of my professional activities) can also be done remotely, even examinations. The current situation will strongly revolutionize the education market, help reduce the cost, although not in all areas. Online commerce will also develop faster, so what does this mean for the interior design industry? We will see new niches to be developed, including in the area of AR and VR. This is seemingly no news, but so far the advantages of these have been overlooked. I also hope that we will focus on the really important issues, on the more important design areas, bringing real value, not just aesthetic value," stresses Szymon Hanczar (hanczar studio).
I think Poland - according to ratings and forecasts - will have a good economic rebound next year. I forecast that we will face about a year of stagnation in the country, and we will take about five years to reach the economic situation from January. In addition, our position internationally will be strengthened by the fact that we are going through this disease mildly (the black Italian or American scenario did not come true). Unlike many trend watchers, such as Li Edelkoort, I believe that the virus will not change much in the global social and consumption consciousness. The current model based on unbridled production and consumption of goods will not change, predicts Professor Jan Sikora (Sikora Interiors Architecture).


To sum up, the situation of architectural offices is stable. Admittedly, the industry is aware of the potential economic crisis, but due to the nature of the profession and a good knowledge of remote working tools, project implementation for the time being is proceeding without significant difficulties.

elabor. ed.

based on press materials

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