Business confidence is delicate and vulnerable in these extraordinary times, but it will return one day, and architects will need to be ready for it, says Emily Booth
There are many sobering statistics out there just now. Here’s one: the RIBA Future Trends survey for March 2020 has reported a 33 point fall in its workload index to –11. It’s the steepest fall in architects’ confidence since the survey began back in the credit crunch days of 2009.
Confidence is an elusive thing. It comes from being supported; from a sense of security coupled with opportunity; from being able to see a positive future that allows you to take a leap.
It is understandable that confidence right now is in very short supply.
And, given what’s going on in the world at present, perhaps the AJ’s latest coronavirus survey results shouldn’t come as a surprise, either. Certainly, they give an important snapshot of the impact on the architecture profession of this crisis.
Our survey shows how the lockdown has decimated architects’ workloads and impacted pay, hours and staff numbers. A staggering 69 per cent of survey respondents say their projects have been put on ice.
‘Before the lockdown I was getting several enquiries a week, but now I am not getting any,’ said one respondent. ‘Hence less work and fewer hours.’
In fact, 20 per cent of all those who answered the questionnaire said their hours had been reduced.
A staggering 69 per cent of survey respondents say their projects have been put on ice
But in the middle of all this shared trouble, there are quiet messages of confidence from which to take heart.
Chloë Phelps, from Croydon Council’s Brick By Brick housing delivery vehicle, has just announced the second wave of its Smaller Sites initiative – standout work by a range of talented practices. ‘We remain ambitious,’ she says.
And our Competitions notices are full of exciting and inspiring opportunities – Lambeth and Salford, for example, have great plans and need architects to help them realise these.
Against a seismic background, where decades of change seem to be happening in a few weeks, the profession needs to hold its nerve.
Confidence is delicate, vulnerable – but it will return one day, and architects will need to be ready for it.