As part of the “Design in a Pandemic” series, Christine Cangelosi Redmon, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, architect at EskewDumezRipple in New Orleans, shares about her experiences in the time of COVID-19 and beyond.
How has the way you work and operate changed due to the pandemic?
As a design team, we have all learned how to utilize our online platforms to collaborate better and grown in our communication styles. Early in lockdown, Steve Dumez advised us all to “over communicate” at this time. We take for granted all the casual conversations in our shared spaces so when we lost the ability to all be together, we had to learn quickly how to make sure everyone was communicating effectively. Being more facile in the online collaboration mediums has allowed us to still work as a team, harvesting the best ideas from everyone, while following safety guidelines.
Work is everywhere and anywhere opening new possibilities for how you can craft your work environment. However, it also had drawbacks of having your work life and home life collide. It has been important in this time, on our team, to make sure we are checking in with each other personally. Everyone is experiencing this life changing pandemic differently and burnout is much less visible through a computer screen. Taking the time to check in helps everyone feel more whole in a world of uncertainty.
How would you say has the role of an architect changed, or not changed?
As advocates for healthy environments, the pandemic helped make our case to many clients. We often push for higher ventilation rates, operable windows, access to nature and fresh air as well as environmentally responsible finishes that can be easily disinfected, but it was not always a priority for each job. Now it is the first thing most clients want to discuss which is refreshing and exciting for all end users. I think the future is full of healthier environments because of this pandemic.
The pandemic has made us all more aware of the range of personal comfort around health and safety. More than ever, architects are being called upon to be advocates for the human experience in the built environment. Before the pandemic, the conversation was limited to user experience, whereas now we are talking about user experience within the context of a range of health and safety protocols. The broadening of this discussion is leading to more inclusive, diverse and rich conversations about the environments around us.
Anything else you would like to share?
Our firm has a standing “Friday Forum” tradition where we gather each Friday at the last hour of the week to share a drink, some refreshments, and hear about important initiatives, opportunities, or creative outlets in our city. When we went into quarantine, we really missed this chance to just hang out with each other. Our Culture and Operations team came up with a plan one Friday to deliver care packages to every staff member (even those who live way outside the city center) following all city guidelines. A masked and gloved team member dropped a package of snacks, libations, toys for kids at home and treats for staff pets at each staff members front porch. We all got together on Zoom that day to share our surprise goodies with everyone and it was such a wonderful pandemic memory.
One of our principals and fellow LSU alum Mark Ripple went the extra mile to bring joy to our faces by dressing as Caution Man. His 6’ of separation cape brought many laughs and smiles. When I asked Mark about Caution Man he reminded me that it is the role of design leadership to make people feel safe so they can create. He knew we would be okay despite the pandemic; after all, the firm did survive Katrina.
Living in Louisiana means learning to be resilient. We know how to pick ourselves up from unfathomable situations, help each other out and ultimately find the joy in our way of life. Being educated in Louisiana means learning how to pull from the creative resilient energy around you to deliver a future full of amazing possibilities.