ADAPTABILITY & CONNECTION DURING COVID-19: A LETTER FROM CHAPTER PRESIDENT CYNTHIA WILLIAMS

I hope that this note finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy in these difficult times. Our world has changed dramatically in the short time since I last wrote to you about the inspiring mayors that spoke at the AIA’s Grassroots Leadership Conference. At the end of that letter, I urged you to allow your voice to be heard by voting in Ohio’s primary election. Like so many other things in our lives, the Ohio primary election did not happen as planned, due to the “Stay at Home” order issued by the Governor to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. There is a now a new process to cast your vote by mail postmarked by April 27. While the national election garners the most media attention, there are also many local offices and issues on the ballot.

While we all struggle to accept the new reality of uncertain futures, I am heartened by our ability to adapt. As architects we are trained to be problem solvers; we see the possibility of a new community center on an unused lot, or rehabilitated living space in a vacant building. Our expertise in the re-purposing of existing buildings as temporary hospitals or emergency operations centers is being offered to local government officials in the nine counties served by AIA Cincinnati. 

With input from around the state, AIA Ohio is creating a database of architects and consultants who focus on buildings devoted to healthcare. Please let AIA know if you specialize in architecture for the healthcare industry or are already working on a project related to COVID-19 so you can be included in our list of resources. 

Just as we can envision an existing building for another use, we have adapted our practices to a new way of working. I am encouraged by my fellow architects who are sharing information and strategies in virtual town halls; even while many of us battle the fear that comes from not knowing whether projects will proceed, and if there will be enough billable time to maintain a viable practice. Some of us have been working remotely for decades; others are just beginning to set up home offices. Architects from large and small firms as well as sole proprietors have come together to support each other and share resources.

In fact, in some ways, I see our community forging more connections than before—from weekly virtual gatherings with AIA Cincinnati’s Women in Architecture group to virtual dinners with friends that live thousands of miles away. Although this technology has been available for years, COVID-19 has made it newly imperative for us to leverage virtual connections to strengthen and empower our community and our friendships. 

What other opportunities haven’t we seen that are already available to us? Perhaps this crisis really is an apocalypse in the original meaning of the word—a “revelation.” A revelation of what is truly important in our environment and in our lives. As we marshal our creativity and care in this challenging moment, I ask: how will you use what is revealed to you?

Sincerely,

Cynthia Williams, AIA 

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