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relay race sketching

From an actual man cave with full bookcases and a skull on the desk to camping tables in attic rooms, desks in dormers, laptops on kitchen tables and computers in ironing rooms or walk-in closets: after two weeks of video meetings I have seen a lot of home workplaces and by now I am convinced that one can really work anywhere.

It is striking how flexible architect teams can be; the transition from collectively working at the office to individually working from home was almost seamless. Some find working at home comfortably efficient as well, because every project team automatically becomes more agile. With a daily stand-up for agreements about the tasks and deliverables of the day, which one can subsequently work on relatively undisturbed. After all, a multitude of meetings and construction or site visits are omitted. Couples who have to juggle between both jobs and home teaching clearly suffer more from inefficiency, but there is no lack of responsibility: we almost have to slow down our employees not to work until late at night.

Working from home is easiest for ongoing projects with clear deadlines and agreements. Remote work is the most difficult when starting up fundamental design processes and keep them running. In these areas, you really miss to sitting together, bend over a sketch roll. We usually discuss as much with words as with the sketch pen. One draws one thing, the other draws another on a piece of superimposed tracing paper and in doing so, you drive each other to ever new tracks and ideas in a really fast pace.

Of course that work method can also be digitalized; you just send each other your sketches and shift to relay race sketching, as it were. But that is a fundamentally different, slower process, with almost certainly different outcomes as well. Sketching and designing benefit from a direct flow, just like a good conversation with your colleagues during the Friday afternoon drink. Sure it is quite fun to virtually share a beer on your screen, but there is nothing like lifting the glass in the real company of your friends and colleagues.

Ronald Schleurholts, architect partner cepezed

Cobouw, April 2nd 2020

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