by Bill de St. Aubin, AIA, LEED AP, CEO
Town Planner & Architect
As a firm that focuses on cultural places and beautiful spaces, we have been humbled to tears watching COVID-19 impact every area of our communities.
I’ve been reaching out to my son Michael who works for the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His thesis project at the Harvard Graduate School of Design was an aspirational tool that simulated the spread of Ebola and predicted outcomes based on changes in the environment and social behaviors. He and his colleagues across the world have been working around the clock on COVID-19.
My conversations with Michael have inspired me to ask our firm to reflect and act quickly on anything we can do to help in this global epidemic now and in the future. I have been humbled by the responses of our team and wonderful clients.
Of course, we’re following all of the official guidelines and are thankful that our clients are doing the same. I’ve never had so many video conferences in a day in my life.
Yet, we want to go beyond the guidelines to the front line of the battle as safely as possible. We want to reflect and act on what this means to our culture and the definition of beauty we provide in our services.
To that end, we started an emergency response team headed by our Asheville office leader Kathryn Scott, who has a background in medical facilities and capacity to help lead the way. The whole office is involved:
- Sebastian Garcia is investigating our ability to 3D print the needed medical supplies.
- Angel Kauffman is talking with a nurse about temporary treatment tents outside medical facilities.
- I’m talking to a friend in the textile industry about his company converting their awning fabric into temporary tents. His company is currently making medical masks.
- We’re reaching out to our public and medical clients to see how we can help. How can we convert facilities to meet the capacity? Can empty hotels and convention centers be part of the solution?
What we need in the short term are medical beds, respirators, masks and medical personnel.
What we need longer term and how that impacts the way we design spaces, buildings and places going forward is still being determined.