As 2019 came to an end, architects all over the world celebrated the passing of another year, only to spend the better half of the next year reminiscing, longing for the time that was. Amidst all the upheaval caused by the Coronavirus, the lockdowns and travel bans, architects and students of architecture have been finding sweet release in the academic or workplaces shenanigans brought about by this unprecedented chain of events. With site visits becoming virtual and meetings practically becoming echo chambers of “Am I audible? Is my screen visible? Can you see me?” it is hard not to be amused by the circumstances we have been thrown into by this pandemic.

Architects in Pandemic- Comedy of Errors - Sheet1
Comedy of Errors-©

The year 2020 has forced the world of architecture to some paradigm shifts, the most drastic of them being the near-total digitization of the workflow. Before the pandemic hit, the senior (read traditionalist) section of our academia was barely convinced of the competence of Computer Aided Drafting, let alone Computer-Aided Design, yet now with all conventional approaches to design rendered seemingly redundant, the legends appear to have fallen. That being said, witnessing the change in propensities of the industry’s finest has been an increasingly inspiring endeavor.

However, at the other end of the spectrum, young architects or architectural interns have been reporting that with the imposition of the lockdown, most have had to kiss their work-life balance goodbye. For a profession that has already garnered its fair share of notoriety for the sleeping patterns it warrants from its practitioners, quarantine has not been doing any favors. Work from home has become a misnomer, as with the new setup, you are always at home, ergo, you are always at work. Online coordination has led to a lapse under ineffective communication. To compensate, the concept of working hours has been abolished. Firms are still struggling to find their break even point between employee satisfaction and sustaining profits.

Architects in Pandemic- Comedy of Errors - Sheet2
Comedy of Errors-©

Schools of architecture have exhibited some of the most amusing responses to COViD – 19. Online classes have elicited a plethora of student reactions. Students have been taking classes from the comfort of their homes, in bed, over a meal, or not at all! It has become all too easy to log in and leave. The bane of every student’s existence – attendance has now become a joke. The accidental mics left on to provide the regular dose of entertainment. Professors have accidentally introduced students to their children, spouses and pets. In contrast, students, unaware of the professors’ presence, have dropped a few loose words here and there. However, what makes this interaction even more humorously pertinent to architecture study is the studio work. Juries being conducted over video calls and screen sharing have turned out to be quite the double edge sword. The lack of a concept swiftly translates to “network issues”, and a second tab to run the jurors’ questions through a search engine has become essential. At the same time, students are experiencing the same lapse in communication. They are unable to convey their designs the way they intended to, courtesy the same connectivity problems.   

Architects in Pandemic- Comedy of Errors - Sheet3
Comedy of Errors-©

With webinars and workshops becoming more accessible than ever, most members of the growing architecture fraternity have spent the last few months sharpening their skill set. Another humorous experience being shared by millions across the globe is the oft too late discovery of the duplicity of such schemes. Social media influencers from within the architecture circuit have been doing the bare minimum and capitalizing on it. With a surplus of such initiatives, it has become impossible for students to weed out the bogus ones from the ones with actual potential. Some of these experiences are relatively extravagant when it comes to their price.

However, the tremendous phenomenon we are observing is how necessity not only drives invention but also adaptability and improvisation. The need of the hour, public health, has broken Sullivan’s golden rule of architecture – form follows function. The focus of architectural debates and deliberations has shifted to just one functional typology – healthcare. This entails the requirement of hospitals, quarantine centers, isolation wards and testing centers. Different building types have been adapted for the same. 

Comedy of Errors-©

One might wonder about the plight of the designers that worked on the building. There is an immense feeling of gratification because the structure made by them is serving a massive purpose to humanity but at the same time, the months, and years of appropriating each detail to fit the predetermined use of the building, might seem a bit futile. Everything from schools, hostels, malls, hotels have now been repurposed to deal with the pandemic. It seems like we are moving towards a future where every structure will double in function as a healthcare provider. Architecture is a unique medium of artistic expression, and perhaps the only medium that is designed to encapsulate human life physically. Understandably, the need to respond to the crisis is much more urgent in this sphere of professions. 

The pandemic has accentuated the degree of our global interconnectedness. Architecture has a unique role to play in the post-pandemic world, and members of the community are already rising to the occasion.   


Samriddhi Khare is a student of architecture. While juggling college submissions and research deadlines she finds time to write about architecture. She is a passionate individual with a penchant for architectural design, art history and creative writing. She aspires to bring design activism and sustainability to the forefront in all her professional endeavours.