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New perspectives through COVID-19? Interview with Patrick Lüth from the Snøhetta architectural office

How has everyday life in your office changed?

Patrick Lüth: The situation affects us differently in different parts of the world. The employees in Oslo, New York, Innsbruck, Paris, Adelaide and San Francisco work on projects from home. Our studio in Hong Kong works from the office and focuses on projects in China and Asia.

In Innsbruck the work on the projects is actually quite productive and efficient. We are used to communicate and collaborate online with clients and colleagues, but of course we miss working together in a shared space. In an open space environment like ours, this level of informal communication and collaboration is quite important. We have introduced video conferencing twice a week with everyone from our studio. In doing so, we try to present ongoing projects informally and stimulate conversation.

In addition, physical collaboration is a very important part of the creative process in early design phases. Both within the teams and with clients. The situation urges us to think about how we can collaborate creatively online.

How are you dealing with the Corona crisis - are your projects still running?

Again, the situation varies in different parts of the world. Some projects are continuing as usual, others are slowing down somewhat, and some have been put on hold. On a global level, Snøhetta has also won new projects during this period. In Innsbruck, the ongoing projects are only marginally affected. But many new projects, or those still in the early stages, are being postponed or cancelled.

What tips can you give your colleagues?

The most important thing, of course, is to put the health of each individual in first place. On a more practical level, it is important to have the necessary digital techniques to ensure smooth communication and collaboration. On an internal level, frequent communication is important to inform and ensure that everyone still feels part of our team. As managers, we must ensure motivation in the teams, support our employees and focus on the potential of a crisis.

What are your plans for the time after quarantine?

I think an important thing after the quarantine is that we meet in person again. Within the Snøhetta team we have a wonderful tradition of climbing the mountain from which we got our name, Snøhetta. I am looking forward to meeting the whole team again, walking and talking! I really believe that we will come out of this as a stronger team.

Seriously: I really believe that the crisis will give us a new perspective on our work as architects. I believe that society in general can learn from this crisis. Aspects of sustainability and ecology are of enormous importance for our common future. In moments like these, we have the opportunity to focus on issues where it is important to restore what has been lost.

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