We need an Olmsted Revolution in 2020.

Pandemic Awakening: A series of reflections on how COVID-19 will impact the design of cultural places and beautiful spaces.

by Bill de St. Aubin, AIA, LEED AP, CEO

Town Planner & Architect
Sizemore Group
It’s in our DNA at Sizemore Group to look at challenges as opportunities. This year sure brought us and the world challenges. The pandemic has impacted human health, the environment and the economy in ways we could not have imagined a year ago.
At Sizemore Group, we started this year with a 2020 retreat and vision of how we would continue to thrive, grow, and serve our communities, creating cultural places and beautiful spaces.
Little did we know that a pandemic would transform our plan and the communities we serve. Within a weekend in March, we all moved to working from home virtually overnight.
We saw some of our clients slow down and others accelerate in the face of challenge. We saw cultural places go vacant along with the hotels, restaurants and meeting places that serve them.
We saw our religious clients transform to online services, many with declining revenue.
We saw our educational clients go virtual.
We saw our office clients push pause.
We saw the banks begin to question vitality of businesses.
We saw a lot of our clients’ funding sources dry up.
Our 2020 vision became blurred with a deep concern for each other, the communities we serve and our clients. Yet, as fate and faith often overlap with hard work and luck, I started this year as I do every year, selecting a few books to begin reading first thing every morning during my devotional hour. This year, the two books that I started with could not have been better for what we would all face as a design office, nation and world.
The first book was A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century by Witold Rybczynski, and the second was Just Mercy, a story about social and racial injustice by Bryan Stevenson. Both true stores spanning almost 200 years of design, justice and the reshaping of American cultural places and beautiful spaces. Both a great source for what the world was about to face in 2020.
My big questions became: Are we experiencing a pandemic awakening? Could a positive shift in the way we worship, work, play and live come from our pandemic experience?  
I explore some of these questions in my recent LinkedIn article, My Own Pandemic Awakening: We Need An Olmsted Revolution in 2020. I hope you’ll join me there and let me know in the comments what your experiences have been answering these questions in your personal and professional lives.