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architects

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What does the Coronavirus Pandemic mean for the Largest Black Owned Architecture Firm?

The Coronavirus pandemic’s impact on architecture still isn’t totally clear. Some construction sites are closed, financial markets are fluctuating, and designers are working from home.

Jack Morley spoke with Jonathan Moody, CEO of Ohio-based Moody Nolan, about how the pandemic is affecting his business and the industry more broadly.

coronavirus pandemic
Curtis Moody

“We’re hoping for the best but planning for the worst,” Moody said. Lessons from 2008’s Great Recession are coming in handy, he said, particularly lessons about the value of diversifying project types and being aware that different sectors of the industry will fare differently.

Education projects may be hampered by schools suddenly without students (the pandemic has spurred the San Francisco Art Institute to close permanently), while multifamily housing may see boosts from slashed interest rates.

He also suggested that because construction timelines on large institutional projects are so long, a few weeks of interruption would pass relatively quickly and wouldn’t require firms to cut staffing.

Moody said that, so far, material and product supply chain delays had caused only a few minor hiccups to schedule, but had encouraged the company to think more about the necessity of items coming from halfway around the world.

“Some of these products look really nice, but are they essential?” he said.

coronavirus pandemic
Curtis Moody and son, Jonathan

Given that occupancy permits may be delayed because of a missing lightbulb from China, shipments of which may be delayed because of the pandemic, “we have to be a little more thoughtful about where [products] are coming from.” Memories of these supply chain disruptions may drive designers to source products and materials more locally even after the pandemic recedes.

The crisis could also spur changes to construction technology, encouraging contractors to adopt tools that could decrease the number of people on-site, like site-monitoring drones or robotic delivery.

Moody said that his firm’s move toward state-of-the-art teleconferencing techniques a few months ago now seems prescient and is helping the company weather the crisis. Similar forward-thinking about construction sites might be what gets the industry through this or coming crises.

While it’s easy to feel bogged down by the daily onslaught of news, Moody stressed the importance of looking ahead. “We do know that this won’t last forever,” he said, “and the things that we’ve been working on will need to continue when ready.”

In the meantime, he is seeing some upsides to the interruptions to normal work routines. “[The disruptions are] forcing us to really question what is essential and teaching us what is important.

We’ve seen our staff and clients be more decisive and thoughtful about how to best leverage expertise, maximize value, and treat people the right way. We’re seeing our humanity on display, and we’re not ashamed to show that we care for one another.”

 

Full interview at The Architect’s Newspaper

 

Related: 15 Black Architects Who Helped Build America

 

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Boston Architecture designed by Black Architects

Private developers in the Boston did not hire black architects for several decades, so much of the architecture in the city today designed by black people is generally of the institutional or infrastructural kind, especially that tied to the state or federal government.

Here is a map of such notable Boston structures (which we plan to update—so reach out re: suggested additions).

The Boston-based firm of Stull and Lee designed the majority. Donald Stull started what became Stull and Lee in 1966, with M. David Lee joining in 1990. It is the most prominent African-American-owned architecture and urban-planning firm in Boston

Central Artery Tunnel Ventilation Building 7

Stull and Lee was responsible for the initial design of this ventilation complex for the Ted Williams Tunnel (it’s right outside of it on the South Boston end).

Deborah Fennick while at TAMS Architecture executed the final design. The building has 14 fans for dealing with exhaust and 10 for fresh air.

Photo via Fennick McCredie

John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute

Stull and Lee worked with William Rawn Associates in designing this 30,000-square-foot institute within a larger mixed-use complex. It features a two-story colonnade that African architectural precedents inspired.

Ruggles Station

The Ruggles Station is one of the busier mass transit stops in the region, with three commuter-rail routes running through and the Orange Line stopping, too. Several bus lines connect as well through the station, which Stull and Lee designed.

The station, with its barrel vault, also serves as a kind of front door for Northeastern University.

Renaissance Parking Garage

The 10-floor, 950-spot garage at Northeastern is part of a so-called gateway for that university’s southern reaches. Stull and Lee designed it.

Boston Police Headquarters

Stull and Lee designed the 180,000-square-foot main hub of the Boston Police Department. It includes the department’s communications apparatus as well as a 24-hour cafeteria.

Roxbury Community College

The firm of Stull and Lee designed this community college building for 1,500 students.

Egleston Center

Stull and Lee designed this complex, which includes a branch bank and a McDonalds Express. The firm placed parking behind the building to emphasize the pedestrian scale of Egleston Square.

 

Source: Curbed Boston