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May 11, 2020 / President's Letters

May 2020 Presidents Letter

Normal?

I just finished reading the umpteenth article in the past month on the “new normal.” It is the most exhausting question I struggle with today. How will the profession change? How will the practice of architecture change? How can we prepare? Finally, how does the AIA need to change to support these new normals? If past economic crises are any guide, the post-COVID-19 landscape will be different than the pre-COVID-19 landscape. AIA Baltimore is committed to helping prepare our members to make this shift as quickly and efficiently as possible. And AIA Baltimore will continue to deliver impactful content and convene important conversations.

In this week’s newsletter, we are publishing the latest membership survey. With 200 responses, it gives us a view into our profession well into the second month of many of us working from home and with large sections of the economy closed. It gives us a glimpse into the larger challenges our peers are facing and a guide for AIA Baltimore to thoughtfully respond.

You can find the full survey here

Below are some takeaways.

  • 47% of survey respondents’ employment has been impacted by COVID-19. This includes layoffs, furloughs, reduced hours and pay reductions.
  • 84% of survey respondents are concerned about layoffs, furloughs, reduced hours and pay reductions in the next 6 months.
  • 40% of survey respondents are responsible for either childcare or family care while working from home.
  • 58% of survey respondents’ firms have had over 10% of their projects go on hold.

Within all the questions and responses, a comment stood out to me:

“If we experience layoffs similar to the 2008 recession, how can we pass along the lessons learned by those who experienced it to those 10 years younger?”

Our current economic crisis comes 12 years after the start of the Great Recession. Large numbers of our staff started their architecture careers in the economic recovery that followed. Their entire career, until March of this year, was within an expanding economy. Architects who were design professionals in 2008 are now leading projects, studios, or firms. This is our first economic crisis as leaders. Architects with even more experience are confronting at least their third economic crisis, with each successive one seemingly more severe. As we all are confronting this crisis with differing experiences, they bring new perspectives. In 2008, I worked for a firm that went from 80 employees in 2008 to 0 in the fall of 2009. The anxiety and exhaustion I felt then is probably similar to feelings many of you have today. Working remotely makes the current situation even harder. Regardless of your experience, I want to stress the importance of mentorship. Especially in times like this it is important to both reach out and check-in.

In the founding spirit of the AIA Baltimore’s Center for Architecture and Design, please take a moment to connect.

Scott M Walters, AIA, LEED APHord Coplan Macht