Solutions for our Post-Pandemic Lives

Solutions for our Post-Pandemic Lives
Solutions for our Post-Pandemic Lives

Sitting in a classroom as a 16 year old, unaware that nearly 2 decades later I’d be running a substantial architecture and design studio, I came to understand that in mathematics there is a solution to every problem. 

I was told that if we continue to work at the problem, we will eventually arrive at the equation that leads to the solution. So I did, I maintained a focus on the solution and eventually excelled in maths as I began to understand the logical approaches to each problem. With practice, the logic became simpler and the solutions more readily apparent. 

This initial exposure to problems and solutions was a firm foundation for my approach to architecture and design. Every project presented its problems and our job was to find a fitting solution for each one. In a sense, as designers, we thrived on understanding and working with the problems presented. A blank canvas led to a design process that was unconstrained and frustratingly difficult. 

2020 has been a year of challenges. From the national bushfires that devastated many communities to the global COVID-19 pandemic, we found ourselves immersed in a sea of problems. The outlook seemed grim and it was easy for us to be drawn to focus on those problems and subsequently end up in stress, worry and anxiety. 

In the property sector, we saw cities changing overnight, with physical distancing measures and a pervasive fear amongst the community. Stadiums and arenas were left desolate, retail stores closed, airports bare, restaurants shut and offices emptied. All these occurrences had resounding effects on our property ecosystem. Landlords and asset owners faced the chopping block as the operating climate shifted radically right in front of their eyes.

Acting on instinct most of us sought to subscribe to security in order to prolong survival. Landlords extended leases with favourable terms, only to create long-term pressure on investment returns. Businesses cut staff to reduce costs and extend their lifespan. Individuals took pay cuts only to consign their hopes and dreams to oblivion. All these adjustments sustained the possibility (but no guarantee) of survival but left most in far worse circumstances than before. We found ourselves in bloodbaths of undercutting and devaluation for the vague promise of survival, a spiraling race to the bottom.

As a business leader, I entered this strange period with panic. We looked at ways to cut costs and ways to retain our pipeline. March 2020 was an exhausting month of anxiety-fuelled struggle to survive. Things seemed to be slipping out of our control as situations worsened. We started counting down our days. 

Melbourne CBD empty, but that's starting to Change..

However, during this period of enforced ‘time-out’ I came to the realisation that maybe, if business was like a game of cards, even though the cards I held were the same, the game had changed. But the value of each card in my hand was now different, as the rules of the game flipped mid-stream. 

So, I started to re-evaluate those cards against the new game rules and realised that, just like a math equation, we could solve the problem in many ways as long as we focused on the solution.

As we navigate the unpredictable times ahead, I look back at the challenges mankind has faced over time and to the resilience of humanity. I remember and understand how we surmounted multiple crises and downturns, and how, amid a myriad of problems and challenges, agile minds among us always came up with solutions to help us edge ahead. 

The questions we face are vast and mostly impossible to answer. But we can move ahead irrespective of circumstances, and continue to grow, if not vertically then sideways. We can continuously shift, adapt, and evolve. And in doing so, we can inject meaning along the way, help communities endure through the challenges, and lead through positive influence.

Samson Tiew

Samson Tiew

Samson is the founding director of ODO, a multidisciplinary design studio with a focus on architecture, interiors, product design and brand.

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postpandemic solutions

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