Covid-19 has fast-tracked changes in the architecture and construction industry, bringing in its wake an emphasis to safety and wellness. There has been a paradigm shift across industries and the construction industry can take the lead in re-strategizing, upskilling, and investing to reshape the industry. Companies, with investments in digital capabilities, saw great success with remote working policies, and considering the global environment, this is expected to continue at least till 2021. The impact of the lockdown on office spaces, has been rather restricted, and comprises only a portion of the firm’s overheads.
However, this unprecedented time has somehow prompted firms to go back to their drawing board, to re-strategize their approach of the conventional workplace. Firms that are flexible enough to reinvent themselves and conceive out-of-the- box solutions to stay connected with their target audience, will be the successful ones in the post- Covid era. Invisible presence of technology in the structures developed is another trend that is winning attention everywhere.
“Running an architecture practice is not a sprint, and it takes years and countless hours of dedication and careful planning to create a business that can weather crises and grow sustainably”
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit architectural firms hard, and what lies ahead for the industry and potential recession is impacting this industry and how we can shield ourselves from this worst economic outcome is a real challenge. “At Oscar & Ponni Architects like most design studios, we followed the instructions from our government to shut our sites as well as our offices and operate remotely with all the technology at our disposal,” says Ponni Concessao and Oscar Concessao, Architects.
The Dynamic Duo
The duo has experienced project delays as a result of the pandemic, while at least 50% projects were impacted by site closures. There have been reduced cash flows as well as increased business costs and unrecoverable outlays. For practicing architects, this has proven to be a tremendous challenge. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed everything for the global populace. Its impact has forced people in every industry to flex and evolve, in real-time and with lasting effects that will endure in the long-term. “The very ways in which we live, work, learn, and even play have transformed dramatically during the days of the crisis. In many ways, the changes are here to stay,” shares Oscar.
Oscar & Ponni Architects is husband and wife partnership firm specializing in Urban design, Architecture and Interior Design stressing on Green Building norms and sustainable architectural design. “Our project typologies include institutional, hotels and resorts, IT parks, government building complexes, museums, 100 acres plus housing projects, luxury homes and all types of commercial projects,” describes the duo.
They have also been involved in the Indian government’s Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana project and built mid-day meal centers, toilets for underprivileged girl students as well as schools for leprosy afflicted patients’ children as part of their corporate responsibility and charity works. Their architectural entrepreneurship was encouraged by both Indian corporate and government agencies. “Our footprint of projects is in over 100 different locations of India and abroad. We are proud winners of over 140 international, national, state and local awards,” shares Oscar and Ponni.
A Differentiated Approach
“Our architectural journey has been relentlessly optimistic and exhilarating, one which has embraced both the possibilities and challenges of international practice in the 21st century,” states the duo. Their USA academics and work experience really gave them confidence to work on largescale projects in India. One thing that sets the duo apart is that they do not fish in the same pond as their competitors. Specialized overseas education and international work experience which set them apart few years ago is no longer enough.
“Surviving, thriving, in this very creative competitive field depends on your ability to serve your customers in a way that is unique, authentic and memorable. However, you can’t do that if your architectural firm isn’t firing on all cylinders,” suggests Ponni. Originally, they chose architecture because it is a very creative profession. As time progressed, the duo began to be intrigued by how buildings could affect the way we live, our mood and behaviour. People spend most of their lives in buildings and through architecture one can influence the way people live their lives for the better.
“With the above-mentioned philosophy, we draw inspiration from nature, my client’s brief, site conditions as well as contextual factors,” claims Oscar and Ponni. They both strongly believe in technologically allied design and combine it with elements of the Indian heritage, contextual architecture, culture, sustainability, and materiality. Bringing in new work while handling the daily ins and outs of running a company requires a combination of talent, skill, team effort, a great business plan and smart organization.
Particularly in the moments that call for scaling up, it becomes apparent that architecture is an industry in which technical knowledge, management, and business understanding are as important as good design. “We are also looking at Growth in new territories and to penetrate new markets and globalization and serve new clients better by being more diversified geographically or offering more services and in different sectors or building typologies,” shares Oscar. “It’s time for architecture to be inspirational and broaden its mission in an increasingly urbanized world,” concludes Ponni.