As many individuals are working from home and following CDC social distancing guidelines, the stresses of isolation during COVID-19 can take a toll on mental health. A survey conducted by US health services firm OptumHealth showed that 51 percent of workers said their mental health has suffered during the Coronavirus outbreak. A slightly higher percentage of workers, 54 percent, said their social well-being has worsened.
To increase social engagement, education and collaboration during this unprecedented time of isolation, the architecture and design industry has increasingly turned to online and virtual technology to not only connect people professionally, but socially, too. A good example of how to thoughtfully go beyond typical efforts of combating isolation through video conferencing meetings and CEUs, the industry has creatively adapted award presentations, design festivals and even happy hour networking events to virtual formats.
Boosting Togetherness: Tuning In to Virtual Award Ceremonies
Two of the industry’s leading recognition ceremonies, as well as a top A&D publication have encouraged architects and designers to attend their events online. Hosted by Interior Design, NYCxDESIGN Awards and the 2020 HiP Awards are taking place on Facebook Live this year. Architectural Record presented its Annual Advertising Excellence Awards as a webinar.
- Architectural Record usually presents its Advertising Excellence Awards during a breakfast held at the annual AIA Conference. Due to COVID-19 and the conference’s cancellation, the ads—and the companies and agencies that produce them—were showcased during an informative and celebratory webinar on May 14. The event featured a panel discussion led by the award judges, highlighting what they look for in award-winning submissions. Those who couldn’t attend the webinar live are invited to register to view it on-demand.
- Rather than eliminate or indefinitely postpone the NYCxDESIGN Awards, Interior Design hosted the presentation virtually on May 18. The inspirational event highlighted all award winners and nominees, a list of which can be found here. A portion of the proceeds were donated to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
- While NeoCon 2020 had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, Interior Design’s Design TV by SANDOW broadcast the HiP Awards, recognizing products and people in various categories on June 12 and June 19. The list of winners can be viewed here.
Purpose-Driven Virtual Events Support Industry Growth and Creativity
Festivals also have found a new home online, and while it is a new experience that the industry is still learning to navigate, A&D audiences are embracing the idea of sharing good works, innovative products and services and promoting growth online in this unprecedented time.
- To boost recognition for the A&D industry, as well as embrace escapism and focus on professional development, architects, designers and anyone interested may visit NYCxDESIGN: The Virtual Experience. A curated collection of NYC’s best digital platforms resides there, inviting individuals to explore virtual tours, visit online galleries, listen to podcasts, and discover online learning opportunities. Submissions are made by the NYC design community and a new selection of categories appears on the website monthly.
- Dezeen, a popular A&D blog, presented its Virtual Design Festival (VDF) from April 15-July 10. The world’s first online design festival was created in response to the unique social restrictions imposed by COVID-19 throughout the world. VDF celebrates the commerce and culture of the architecture and design world, by featuring a rolling series of online lectures, talks, product launches and more. The platform also provides an opportunity for A&D businesses to support their supply chains, and each other, in new and better ways.
- San Francisco Design Week—which participates in World Design Weeks, a network of more than 30 design and urban festivals—is the first member of the organization to move online. Due to COVID-19, SF Design Week was held virtually, June 15-25. With a focus on an immersive design festival experience, the multi-day event offered digital programming, livestreamed studio crawls, networking opportunities and virtual experiences. While most of the event was live or pre-recorded, a few were special virtual and augmented reality events.
Virtual Happy Hours: A Purely Social Endeavor
As the A&D community navigates how awards shows and festivals work in during a pandemic, what we all truly miss is engaging on a more personal level. Some firms have implemented virtual happy hours as a less structured way to network, converse and recharge one’s social well being.
- WiA (AIA Women in Architecture | Houston) Held virtual happy hours in May and June to, as they say, “wine down as we catch up with each other virtually!” The group aspires to be defined, not by gender, but rather by talent, competency and perspective as design professionals.
- AIA Oregon held its virtual event July 10. The AIA Oregon Virtual Happy Hour served as a get-together to share experiences, ask questions, and connect with and support each other, while focusing on various industry topics.
Virtually Recognizing Achievements and Events Improve Emotional Connections
The A&D industry is an example of how it is possible to balance the mind’s desire for collaborative connections with the inability to host and attend in-person events. It is vital to everyone’s mental health and well-being to feel that they are still part of a team and are being recognized for new innovations and accomplishments, as well as providing a social outlet. With a little thought, creativity and empathy, companies and organizations are creating events and reimagining celebrations to boost camaraderie during these uncharted times. It’s a sign that, despite a rapidly changing professional world, the industry is still strong, and we all still want to connect personally.