What have been your biggest challenges over the past few months?
I think most people in general are experiencing Zoom fatigue, whether it’s for meetings with clients or meetings with staff while working from home. We miss the face to face interaction and personal connections. I feel I am working more than ever to maintain contact with everyone, spending most of the (8-5 part of the) day trying to get to what I love to do the most—design! We are being productive, but I do thrive in charette type environments which is what makes DMAC a real studio environment. I feel that over-the-phone or video conferencing causes us to lose something in the process. Maybe it’s because we have a great team and incredible clients and I just miss seeing them?
Have you found anything surprising about the new way your team is working?
The team is adjusting well to the new circumstances, but I think the WFH dynamic is also proving difficult to juggle with young kids, calls, and producing documents, drawings and presentation materials. I think a lot of the staff are putting in long hours—as I answer this at 10:45 pm, I see at least two screens moving as people are on VPN from home for a deliverable we promised to get out today. I expect to send it out minutes before midnight!
Are you able to share where you’re at with your projects?
We have several projects on hold and others on accelerated schedules. Pre-COVID-19 we were working on five Midtown Athletic Clubs around the country, three on the boards and two under construction. We are accelerating the construction of the two, as it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of now empty clubs, and we have recently restarted one of the remaining three that was on hold. These are uncertain times for many of our club, restaurant, and casino clients, but we are also supporting them in preparing action plans for reopening. We are starting and continuing to work on branding for several large corporate clients for roll outs that may not begin for several years.
How do you think the hospitality industry, and designing for it, will adapt going forward?
I think hospitality, although hit maybe harder than anyone during this time, will be more nimble going forward. New business models that were born of this pandemic may change how we design restaurants and hotel spaces. How will we respond to social spaces, interact with staff, and order food—dine in and takeout? We are constantly discussing, what are the aesthetics of separation? Moving forward, spaces will be designed to still be immersive and social, bringing people together, while keeping people far enough apart to feel safe.
What opportunities do you think could come?
Hospitality is all about the experience. That is still key to getting people off their couches and into restaurants, hotels, airplanes. What the pandemic has taught us is that design is more important than ever to highly curate how people enter, move through, and interact with the space that feels effortless, memorable, and safe. Restaurants could be designed with greater flexibility to partition space for private groups. Where entertainment meets F&B, like casinos, some of the F&B real estate like buffets will likely be given over to the gaming floor for greater social distance, yet would have personal tableside service. In my experience, challenges like COVID are always unique opportunities to be creative.
How have you personally been adapting to life and work? Any new or unexpected discoveries, hobbies, time-fillers, or TV shows?
Right now, I’m working more than ever to keep the office moving forward. Still, I recently managed to watch The Last Dance series on ESPN. I was living and working in Chicago when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls team took six championships. It was an amazing thing to be part of. Who knew that years later I would meet the legend himself and design two of Michael Jordan’s restaurants!