Hagy Belzberg and Cindy Allen Chat on Instagram Live

Even as his West Coast firm adapts to life under quarantine, Hagy Belzberg is all smiles. At noon EST today, the Belzberg Architects principal sat down with Interior Design Editor in Chief Cindy Allen for the latest in her series of Instagram Live chats, where he offered some perspective on working from home and staying hopeful in anxious times.

“There are thirty of us at the firm,” the Interior Design Hall of Famer explained. “We’re all working remotely, now, and it’s insane. If there’s one thing I miss, it’s the interaction, and the energy that we feed off of each other when we create.”

Progress hasn’t halted entirely—construction workers on some of the firm’s projects have stayed the course, Belzberg recounted. But firm visits to those sites have all but ended, and the firm’s design arm has taken a hit.

“Our work is so hands-on,” Belzberg said. “We never want to experience this again. It’s definitely caused a shift in our culture, but we’re looking at the positives, asking things like, How can we make this more engaging?

The solution, it seems, blends old and new. “We draw on FaceTime,” he said. “We’re on camera, but literally sketching with whatever we can find in the house. Crayons, tape—we pull those things together. Sometimes it doesn’t work,” he admitted with a laugh, “but I’ll be honest, it does have some relevance to it. Arts and crafts meet the 21st century. It’s expanding our creative palette, and that’s what we need right now.”

Fortunately, the slower pace hasn’t been all bad. It’s also given the firm a chance to focus on a different kind of project.

“We’re producing our first monograph through Rizzoli,” Belzberg shared. “It’s a beast of a project, but it’s almost time for submittal. It helps us now to go back in time and revisit all of the projects that we felt were really inspiring, and which helped us get to where we are. It gives us a chance to meditate on what was the most important thing when we started.”

Before signing off, Belzberg touched on one more observation from the past few weeks. “What’s so interesting to me is how we start our emails now,” he said. “It’s always, ‘I hope you’re safe, I hope you’re healthy.’ We’re a community, now. The demarcation of ‘They do that, we do this’ is gone, and I think that will be the positive that comes out of this.”

> See our full coverage of COVID-19 and its impact on the A&D industry

ThinkLab, the research division of SANDOW, is gathering information about our industry’s response to COVID-19. Click here if you’d like to participate.

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