2020: The Year That Changed It All
A Perkins&Will Photo Essay
It seems humans are hardwired to indulge in a little nostalgia as they near the completion of a revolution around the sun. As we prepare to usher in a brand new year and bid adieu to the old, we become introspective. We reflect on the 11 and a half months that have come and gone—on the highs and the lows of the recent past—and we experience the salvo of mixed emotions that only a study of the passage of time can evoke.
But for many of us, to introspect after living through 2020 is to tap into the pain of a deadly pandemic, of systemic racism, of political divisiveness, and of climate change-related disasters. The promise of a new year is like an escape hatch; it seems to mark—even if only symbolically—an end to our collective suffering.
At Perkins&Will, we’ve been doing some reflecting, too. Our photo essay, below, chronicles the leap year that launched us into a new decade, catapulted us into a “new normal,” and tested our resilience, resolve, and purpose in ways we never imagined. What we discovered is that, even in the darkness, there was so much light.
The World Health Organization (WHO) assigns a name to the mysterious flu-like disease affecting China and parts of Europe—“COVID-19.” Our Shanghai studio is forced into lockdown for two weeks. In response, our other studios send supplies and support. We remain confident in a prosperous year to come.
The WHO declares a global pandemic. Our Shanghai team returns to work, but in Europe, North America, and Latin America, we pivot to working from home. Our innovative use of technology helps us build even stronger connections with each other and our clients.
The U.S. reaches a grim milestone as a new record is set for the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities in a single day. Our teams continue to mobilize to respond to the mounting crisis, using design thinking to innovate creative solutions for our clients and frontline healthcare workers.
Innovation is our heartbeat, and it’s getting even stronger. We continue to help our clients navigate uncharted territory and accomplish the seemingly impossible.
The U.S. experiences a racial reckoning in the weeks following the May 25 killing of George Floyd. We mourn, and we pledge to take concrete actions to combat racism in the architecture and design profession.
Back-to-school for millions of children presents myriad health and safety concerns for parents, teachers, and staff. We conduct comprehensive research and formulate a plan of action for schools around the U.S.
Projects open, studios re-open, and design excellence is celebrated. The pandemic, meanwhile, lingers on.
Innovation, as always, takes center stage. We commemorate 10 years of our Innovation Incubator program, and engage in industry activities and project work that drive social equity. By now, we’ve gotten the hang of maximizing technology to nurture our studio cultures, and put a virtual spin on our time-honored in-person traditions.
The number of single-day COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. tops the record set in April. Our research proposal seeking to understand the impacts of the pandemic on housing affordability, health, and well-being wins a $20,000 ASID Research Grant. And we launch a storytelling campaign to recognize our design leaders.
The U.K. and the U.S. approve and administer the first COVID-19 vaccines, marking the beginning of the end to this historic pandemic. Our firm is recognized for excellence by dozens of the world’s most prestigious awards programs. We are grateful.
The year 2020 will be remembered for a lifetime, and its myriad lessons—in public health, policy, economics, and crisis management, to name but a few—will be studied for years to come. Together, we have lived through a watershed moment in world history. Our collective experience will come to define an entire generation. Society has been irrevocably transformed.
While none of us knows exactly what tomorrow may bring, what we do know is this: Each of us will emerge from the pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever. And so we welcome 2021 with open arms and mind.
To all of our colleagues, clients, and partners: Thank you for accompanying us on this journey—then, now, and into the future. May your new year be filled with wonder and light.