Architecture During COVID-19: Has Everything Come to a Stop
Architecture During COVID-19: Has Everything Come to a Stop

The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic has negatively affected almost every vertical out there, architecture included. The architecture field is very diverse. It encompasses education, projects in the planning phase, ongoing projects, and projects scheduled for the future. None of these were immune to the restrictions imposed by governments all over the globe.

The question here is, has everything in the world of architecture come to a stop due to COVID-19? Answering this question is not easy. To help you find out, we had to roll up our sleeves and do some extensive research. Here is how COVID-19 affected architecture, what are architects and firms doing to survive, and what the future holds.


The education sector got hit hard by COVID-19. Students worldwide, including those in the US, were suddenly exposed to a lot of stress. Their financial status went down as well, and many were one step away from being housing and food insecure.

The education sector took a while to acclimate to the changes. Today, it all revolves around video conferencing. Many institutions adopted Zoom as their go-to platform for continuing education and preventing the semester from failing.

If anything, video conferencing-based education has got all the professors thinking about improving lectures and the assessment process. Time is of the essence as professors in charge of architectural curriculums don’t have as much time as they had in the classic setting.

Making the most out of one lecture has all the teachers thinking about what can benefit students most. Having in-class discussions in the middle of a class is simply not possible anymore. Zoom is convenient, but when there are too many students present, having online discussions is challenging, if not impossible.

The way students are being assessed is also changing. Evaluating architectural knowledge at the very end of the semester is no longer viable. Other factors are coming into the equation, such as students’ progress, understanding, capacities, and contributions to the discipline.

The biggest challenge is perhaps transferring the design studio classes from the university to a remote setting. Education in architecture is built around designing a design studio where students can come and learn how to trigger and channel the creative process. With it no longer being an option, we expect to see a different approach, a method that will allow students to master it while learning remotely.

At the moment, there are a lot of moving pieces in architectural education. If you want to learn more, you can tune in and listen to the COVID-19 and the Future of Architectural Education podcast. Things are going to change, but it is too early to be 100% sure of what education is going to be like.

Projects that were caught up in the pandemic

COVID-19 has triggered a slowdown across all industries and sectors. Architecture and construction are inseparable. Unfortunately, both did suffer from the pandemic. According to Appleseed Strategy, more than 70% of companies saw a decrease in revenue in the second quarter of 2020.

We can see the same trend all over the place. In Australia, for instance, the latest Association of Consulting Architects survey tells us that 89% of firms report projects being either canceled or put on hold. The value of these projects is estimated at over $5 billion.

At the exact time when COVID-19 got declared a worldwide pandemic, most of the countries embraced the lockdown. Additionally, almost 90% of companies expect that revenue will continue to drop in the third quarter.

Were there any particular projects that were caught up in the pandemic? Of course, there were. The lockdown has left many office buildings, hotels, and restaurants empty when you think about it. When investing, developers look for opportunities that promise a significant ROI. This is why office and hospitality projects are put on a halt. Many planned for the future are now canceled.

We are usually informed when COVID-19 stops a big project. Such is the case with the observatory at the top of the Aon Center in downtown Chicago. This is a whopping $185 million project that had to be put on hold because of the pandemic. The owners stopped the project due to several reasons.

While social distancing and safety are the primary concerns, another one can be particularly interesting for architects. Owners want to see if they’ll have to introduce new design changes to make the observatory viable for the post-COVID era.

Is this a clue that there will be new post-COVID era requirements? Will architects have to incorporate unique design guidelines to design buildings that can actually be constructed? These are just some of the questions that come to mind. We anticipate new industry survey results to help us gauge the situation and see what’s going to happen with the projects put on hold.

New projects?

While the industry is filled with the grim news of project cancellations and projects being put on hold, there is still some light. It will take a lot more than COVID-19 to lockdown architecture and all the creative people that make the industry. There are plenty of new projects to be found. Here is a quick rundown of all the new things happening around the world.

The Portland International Airport is going to have its old terminal rebuilt. The new main terminal is scheduled for completion in 2020, and the project is worth $1.5 billion. It will feature an expansive timber roof and several skylights. The terminal will feature a lot of natural elements, trees, bushes, and grass. The wood is going to be sustainably sourced.

Germany will become richer by one new luxury residential retreat on the shores of Lake Scharmützelsee. The retreat is designed not to disrupt nature. In fact, the architects have made sure the new object lies in perfect harmony with nature. This is the second major architectural project that emphasizes nature. Maybe this is a new post-COVID era trend emerging. Let’s see.

In October 2020, Google released its plans for the San Jose campus. The project is called “Downtown West.” The 80-acre campus is going to look like nothing we’ve seen before. It will feature a parkland and a lot of public open space. The complex will also come with many bicycle facilities to enable residents to connect with the surrounding nature easily. The idea is to make it possible for nature and urban life to coexist in the same place.

The connection between urban and nature is a trend that started before COVID-19 was a thing. Now that we need more open space and clear air to breathe, it is logical to assume that we will see more and more new projects equally focused on urbanism and nature.

What does the future hold?

The pandemic has put the entire profession in a tough spot. The architectural masterpieces were buildings that celebrated spontaneous social interaction. Some of the most renowned architects were socially-minded, including the famous Michael Sorkin, who died of complications from COVID-19. At this point, most of the architects are wondering what does the future hold?

The COVID-19 pandemic had many architects do something they’ve never imagined doing - how to turn convention centers and sports arenas into hospitals. After all, architects are often hired to address particular problems and deliver effective solutions.  At this point, it is really hard to be sure about what the future holds. It depends on many factors, including the invention of an effective COVID-19 vaccine.

However, one thing is certain. Architects will have to better plan offices and public spaces better, considering that materials and building plans can contribute to the spreading of deadly viruses and bacteria.

Maybe the architects will have to use antimicrobial materials in the future and make smart use of the UV lights. Population density is another factor. This is a real mind-scratcher as architects will have to develop a friendly solution for the environment and allow people to have all the space they need.

As the industry slowly goes back up to its feet, many architects will probably change their approach from reactive to proactive. Planning for the future and addressing “what if” situations will enable architects to design buildings that facilitate high-quality life while reducing the risks of potential biohazards. It will also affect the way architects promote their work and pitch project ideas.

What can professionals do to get by during this time?

Architecture and construction go hand in hand. There are only a handful of architects working on the world’s biggest projects. The majority of the industry depends on the revenue coming through small to mid-sized project channels. With the COVID-19 hitting the sector hard, architects can be left with the impression that there is nothing they can do. There are plenty of things you can do if you are in a tough spot.

First of all, everyone is aware of COVID-19, how it spreads, and how it can endanger human life. To appear trustworthy in front of your clients, you will have to make appropriate office policy changes. If you haven’t already, restrict office access and embrace the work from anywhere movement.

Enable your clients to contact you via several channels. Not all people are the same. Some prefer Skype over Viber; others are comfortable with Zoom. Make yourself available through as many communications channels as possible to make sure you don’t lose valuable leads.

Come up with remote and virtual client meeting procedures and best practices. This is something entirely new for you. Get comfortable around the new tools before you engage in meetings with your clients. You will feel more confident. Not having to worry about “if something will work” will enable you to focus on your pitch.

Implementing 3D rendering and 3D visualization practices is now more critical than ever.  Communicating your ideas is no longer possible through in-person meetings, and sharing your drawings and models during a video conference call doesn’t do your work and effort enough justice.

High-quality 3D renders and 3D visualization provide you with effective means to attract and delight your clients. The best thing about them is that you can share them with your clients hassle-free. More importantly, you can showcase your work on your official website, write a case study, attach images, or use images in your news-type blog articles. You can incorporate 3D renders in your marketing strategy and share them across social media platforms to attract even more clients.

Staying tuned to the latest developments in the industry is also essential. You are not alone out there. Your colleagues are already blogging about COVID-19 challenges and how they decided to tackle them. You can find out some interesting approaches and try them out yourself to stay in the game.

Major architect news portals and magazines are flooded with valuable COVID-19 related materials. Make sure to check these as well.

And finally, if you have a firm, you have to check the COVID-19 relief programs your government has in place. At this point, any help matters, and you should consider leveraging every opportunity to avoid closing your business.


COVID-19 seriously hit architecture. Many projects were put on hold, with as many canceled. Architectural education also had to adjust to new situations. Universities started using online learning platforms to enable students to keep up, with some making changes to campuses to prevent future COVID-19 spreads.

The developers and investors have not entirely backed up. There are plenty of new projects around and clients to reach out to. Staying tuned to the latest news and making necessary changes to your processes and policies will help you stay competitive and future-proof your business for the post-COVID era.