It’s time to do more with less ~ Meghana Kulkarni and Pooja Chaphalkar, on the Profession post Coronavirus Pandemic

Who knew it would be a virus that’ll bring the world to its knees exposing the chinks in our society’s armour in its present state of being? We’re still coming to terms with what it means to have the entire world and economies shut down and trying to imagine the repercussions of the same. But the only thing that’s certain today is the uncertainty of it all in the future. Today it’s a virus and we might be prepared for it the next time around… but who knows what’s in store for us next? War? A different kind of disease? An alien invasion? Climate change? Wait… the last one’s a reality we’re already living it. But it appears to be such a slow burn that we’re not sweating yet (metaphorically speaking… it’s summer and my armpits are soaked already.)

All of these things have a direct effect on the economy. Isn’t it strange that the world is going through an economic slowdown because people are only spending on the essentials?  This indicates the excesses that our population has been accustomed to.

We can safely say that the world needs less building activity. Architectural projects might in the future become program heavy with intense requirements. Large exiguous investments in projects like museums and convention centres will be on a low. The designed spaces will need to be multifunctional with least compartmentalization. The reliance on materials manufactured far from our buildings will need to be reduced. And our clients will probably want more from less.

The spending power of people has been a key to the survival of the design profession and we are seen as a luxury… dispensable on the first signs of trouble. In reality, however, architecture is quite indispensable, though we sometimes make ourselves a part of luxury and excesses. It’s time to get off our high horse and prove our value to society.

The rich western world- which has borne the brunt of this calamity – with their global consultants, conglomerate owners and rich citizens appear to have lived in a world very different from ours. Will, they really cut down on air travel? Will luxury products, third and fourth homes, designer clothes and jewellery really lose their value? Will Venice really make any changes in their tourist policy to continue to have Dolphins surface on their waters? Will everybody take a few steps back and decide to not prioritize excesses? And maybe if they do it, so could we?

Paint me cynical, but this too shall pass. After all, we’ve come out of earlier global slowdowns without learning key lessons. Maybe two years later our style of work would have changed… but society is so driven by competition, and our markets are so conditioned towards growth, that environmental and social concern will not hold. Our own future may also not hold us from continuing nature’s destruction. As Vijay Narnapatti from Maya Praxis mentioned in the earlier article, a mason working on a house which is the third property of an owner questions the need for it… but continues working on it because he needs the money…

Well, for now, our offices are working remotely. Systems are in place and the Wifi is on. Great! Let’s get to work then?


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