Sign of the Times: Distance Designing

March 20, 2020

A message from RODE Architects Partner/Founders Eric Robinson & Kevin Deabler

After a week that has likely defined a new way of working and living, we wanted to send an update to RODE Architects’ employees, clients and partners. Adaptation has always been a core principle in our architectural design and implementation playbook. Of the many factors that play into working through the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19, the ability to change how and where we work to achieve the same standard and level of excellence is something that will continue, and is a trait we regard as important as any drawing, sketch, or floor plan. The culture will no doubt continue to change as we navigate these uncharted waters but our commitment to excellence in serving our clients will not, as we best navigate a remote working environment. 

 

RODE’s identity is built through those who are part of our team. Though we are not in office, we are still committed to building our culture through teamwork and a culture of supporting each other. The All-RODE chat thread is filled with encouragements, celebrating small successes, and the first signs of Spring! We’ve created a ‘Parent Support Group’ thread to share ideas on how to survive sharing a workspace with kids. And we look forward to our first remote Beer Friday, where everyone will sign-on accompanied by their favorite beverage.

 

Then there are the continued emails, google chats, videocalls. While we can’t just pop over to someone’s desk to work through a design challenge, we are still connecting. Our first successes will be achieved through “over” communicating at first, since we can’t know exactly how these conditions will affect our process. Like everyone else in the virtual workspace, we are already getting into a groove as a team, and a “new process” has emerged, one built on the foundations of the RODE way. Fortunately, we cultivated an energetic environment of communication and collaboration within our physical studio space, which gave the team a kind of social structure that is now working to help us in our remote communications. We can’t say it’s been effortless, but the transition has actually been quite smooth, all things considered.

 

While active construction has been halted in Boston, behind the scenes, our projects are still moving forward. We feel the angst of clients whose construction sites - some just days or weeks away from on-site completion - have come to a halt. There is a lot of coordination and planning that happens outside of the actual construction site, and as of now, we’ve been able to keep many projects moving even while the building has stopped. We continue to stay in close, regular contact with the Boston Planning & Development Agency, which is still working through these unprecedented circumstances.

 

We have created a communication infrastructure and system of daily “check-ins” that keep teams on task and projects moving forward effectively. Project managers can quickly communicate with each other to reallocate staff as priorities change or schedules realign. And through Google’s suite of tools - Chat, Meet, Hangouts – our staff have still been able to hold quick meetings, share design progress, and coordinate teams. As projects continue to move forward, we grow ever more fluent in these tools for remote communication, we know that working on the technical aspects of our job will become ever smoother. 

 

As we stitch together this new network of connectivity, how can we guarantee that projects will still be given a spark of inspiration; will we still experience the “lightning bolt” moment that invigorates our studio culture? These early days give us comfort in that regard. We follow the same recipe that gave us success in the first place: bring the right people together, foster an atmosphere of inclusion and robust contribution of ideas, and eagerly pursue those ideas that have merit. Our impressive team of creative minds possess the ability to adapt to something they haven’t done before – creating and designing inspired architecture in a virtual workspace. Much like creating the vision for a project in a difficult environment with multiple planning challenges, the team is making it happen, and finding opportunity in the challenges. Our team understands that disruption to the norm can generate great creativity and thus, those signature RODE lightning bolt moments. The commitment to continuing our mission to servicing clients in the COVID-19 climate is as strong as ever.

 

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