2020 President, Jane Frederick, FAIA addresses COVID-19

Females gazes toward buildings in city

Dear AIA community,

This is an uncertain and scary time for all of us. These past few weeks and the next several months have been and will be unprecedented. There is no playbook, or historical North Star to guide what we do in the near, medium, and long terms. It is not an overstatement to say that this is a generation-defining moment.

The COVID-19 public health crisis has touched and reshaped all our lives, in ways we don’t even know just yet. That can seem overwhelming, unless we remember that we are not defined by the challenges we face, but how we meet them personally, professionally, and as citizens of the global community.

This crisis has reminded me, and I suspect all of us, of the significance of family, friends, and community. And it is important to recognize the small positives ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic: a less frenetic pace and an opportunity to spend more time with our families, partners, and close friends. I hope all of us will use this time to help reconnect with the people closest to us because that connection is the strongest force we have. Ultimately, it is stronger than any challenge we will face.  

Based on the spirit of collaboration, shared sacrifice, and self-reliance I’ve seen so far, I am convinced that we will do more than meet our challenges; I am certain that we will grow and become stronger as a community. Please know how proud I am of how the AIA community has come together. In the coming days, weeks, and months our unity of purpose will be critical to our ability to meet the challenges ahead.

Our members and components are stepping up to help our country.

Firms are repurposing 3-D printers to create N-95 masks and other critically needed but scarce medical supplies.

Molly Scanlon, PhD, FAIA—who is the Director of Standards, Compliance and Research at Phigenics and a former health care facility designer—is leading an AIA Task Force in developing a COVID-19 Rapid Response Safety Space Assessment that will include considerations for the suitability of buildings, spaces, and other sites for patient care and temporary housing.

Our advocacy team is working tirelessly to make sure that the stimulus bills provide the support our firms and members need now and after this pandemic passes.

We are working with software developers, including Autodesk, on providing discounts and extended access to help more of our colleagues work remotely.

Please explore up-to-date resources on our COVID-19 response.  It’s right on the front page if you need it.  

We are stronger as individuals and professionals when we first call upon our unique blend of strengths, resources, gifts, and talents in times of crisis. We are better as individuals and professionals when we share those strengths, gifts, and talents to benefit others.

The fact is that that no single organization, profession or even government has all or even most of what it will take to meet this challenge. What should give us hope is that our combined inner strength, compassion, and abilities will see us through, as individuals, as professionals, and ultimately as a global society.  

Now more than ever, the world needs the unique skills of architects, not just to meet this current crisis, but to meet the many challenges society will face in the years ahead – chief among them, the climate crisis. The World Health Organization predicts that one of the many threats posed by climate change is an increase in pandemics.

The COVID-19 public health emergency has given us a preview of what’s to come. It has also given us the opportunity to prepare and to think and act anew. As the world we knew recedes into a memory, replaced by the reality of a rapidly changing climate and the unpredictable changes that it causes, these types of once-in-a-lifetime crises will become more frequent.

It has also made clear that we can reverse the negative impacts on our environment by changing our behavior. While the last few weeks have been unsettling, they have also demonstrated the power and impact of collective actions.

There are reports that for the first time in years, the waters in Venice are clear, pollution is down in China. And in this country, as a result of fewer cars and buses on the road, carbon emissions have been reduced. This could be the start of a sustained push to improve our environment. We must work together to ensure that the built world is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

The still evolving COVID-19 crisis has scrambled even the most basic assumptions we’ve made about our lives and what the future will look like, but I know this: collectively we have the power to meet the many challenges in the days ahead. Even in these early days of this crisis when the only certainty is uncertainty, I also know that we will be stronger in the end.

Take care of yourselves and your families.

Jane Frederick, FAIA

Image credits

Females gazes toward buildings in city