Citizen Architect - Kenneth Drake, AIA
Citizen Architects began engaging with local, state, and federal authorities and the medical community before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic—and even before it hit the United States. Kenneth Drake, AIA is one of three Citizen Architects are advising government officials about how to increase hospital-bed capacity, contain the virus, and keep millions of Americans safe at home.
Sometimes the design and medical communities need to work together to grab government’s attention.
Kenneth Drake, AIA, NCARB, of Drake-Design Consulting LLC, chairs the AIA-New Jersey COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Task Force. Drake formed this body after scientists and medical providers he had worked with encouraged him to reach out to state leaders. These colleagues wanted officials to hear from Drake and others in the design sector about how to create appropriate healthcare facilities to treat COVID-19 patients.
Advocacy from architects is important, Drake said, because “we represent the needs of the community.” As part of their efforts, Drake and his colleagues petitioned the state government to deem architects, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, and surveyors as essential personnel during the crisis.
Drake’s advice is to keep (virtually) pounding on policymakers’ doors until they listen. “Over my 40-year career,” he said, “I have found that when confronted with a major challenge, you have to be persistent, not lose focus, and keep moving ahead” until the right person hears your message.
Citizen Architects: A Call to Action
Contending with the built environment is not the only place Citizen Architects are channeling their passion. As dezeen reported, architects across the country “are using their own 3D printers and laser cutters to make the visors, which are being delivered to hospitals for distribution to front-line medical staff amid shortages of the safety devices.”
Architects are problem-solvers, and, as Phigenics’ Scanlon said, today the nation’s leaders face a 1,000-year challenge. “It is every architects responsibility to step up. Everyone must participate in order to ensure safety in our built environments,” she said. “We must act as individuals, as an industry, and as a society in a collective effort to save human lives.”
–As told to Kerrie Rushton