John Marx, AIA, on potential economic impacts of COVID-19

John Marx 1

AIA Voices of COVID-19 highlights how firms and firm leaders are dealing with this unprecedented crisis. This is the fourth in a series.

John Marx, AIA, is the Chief Artistic Officer and a design principal at Form4 Architecture, a 32-person, San Francisco-based firm that specializes in, among other things, workplace architecture and interiors. For Marx and his team, teleworking has been, in some ways, more demanding than traditional studio worknot because the work is more demanding, but the work style is more demanding. “I wake up and I’m on video calls and phone calls all day long,” he says, “and between my partners or the technical staff or clients, it’s just been nonstop.”

Beyond the loss of life and health issues, of most concern are the short- and medium-term economic impacts, both on our clients and the world economy in general. We have 42 employees and we have all been working at home since March 17th. The transition was relatively easy. Only two employees needed to borrow a large monitor from the office.  Our software and servers have been cloud-based for some time. Most employees can work right from the office PC using SplashTop.

Most of our clients are technology companies, and with the state of traffic quality in the San Francisco Bay area, we have been doing a lot of virtual meetings already. Now that we are in our third week of staying at home, I have grown somewhat fond of the energy level our staff has displayed, and their get-it-done attitude. What I miss most are my somewhat indulgent long lunches with employees and my partners, where relationships deepen. Conversely, the video chats and phone calls are much more "about business.”

Currently we have had no clients pause projects due to COVID-19, with the exception of projects under construction, which have been halted by government decree. We are actively pursuing a loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration and our bank, and it seems like it will be a very helpful bridging device for the unknown nature of the crisis. But, we are also setting aside a fund to take care of unforeseeable conditions that may arise from this crisis, especially in light of the fact we don't yet know the severity or duration.

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John Marx 1

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