A Positive Perspective from Jonathan Feldman


As Founder and CEO of Feldman Architecture, Jonathan Feldman has come a long way since establishing the firm in 2003 in the basement of his San Francisco home. Now, with an expansive team working inside a fully renovated historic fire station, Feldman Architecture is widely known and respected for their designs that improve life while minimally impacting the planet. They have proven time and time again that modern architecture can be progressive while using sustainable materials and resources.

Here Feldman shares how the team has evolved their practice during the COVID-19 pandemic and are pivoting into the future.

Founder Jonathan Feldman. Photo by Meg Messina.

-What are you doing to keep yourself and your team positive during this time? I’m pretty sure one of the fundamental prerequisites for being an architect is the ability to be optimistic and see a bright future during challenging times. It’s our nature and our regular work challenges hone these skills. That said, staying optimistic when your projects are stopping, you are unable to collaborate in person with your team, and when your work environments are crammed on top of your living environments – that is a new degree of difficulty, even for us optimists. So we spend a lot of time pointing out all that we have going for us. We are still all healthy. We live in a place that is flattening the curve. We still have projects moving forward, and we are in a profession where there are powerful tools to keep us productive and connected even when we can’t meet in person. 

A home in Sonoma. Photo by Joe Fletcher.

In what ways was your company prepared for working virtually?
Although we certainly didn’t expect or prepare for a fully deployed remote office, we already had the infrastructure and tools which quickly allowed us to transition. Aside from individual hand sketching and model-making, most of our work is paperless. We just picked up our computers and monitors and brought them home. We were already had many cloud-based workflows and strong VPN capabilities. 

What is the current state of your business? Are projects still active? About 50% of our work came to a stop! I’ve never seen anything close to that, the 2008 recession was not nearly as bad for us. However, we still have a number of active projects, and some of those are able to take more of our hours, allowing them to move much more quickly. And surprisingly, we started a couple of new projects in the middle of this and are still seeing new inquiries and opportunities come in. 

Sunrise, photo by Adam Rouse.

Whether it be with regards to clients or internal, how do you envision architectural process changing after this is over?
This whole situation is forcing us to re-invent ourselves a bit. We are seeing real benefits from more frequent check-ins with clients, staff, and consultants. We are developing greater discipline, prioritizing communicating clearly and working very efficiently- all while managing what little cash we have. Architects are getting a crash-course in navigating their business finances and forcing us to be much more savvy and disciplined. These lessons will serve us all well when we eventually come out of this period. 

The Farm project. Photo by Matthew Millman.

What has been the most enjoyable way you have occupied your time during isolation? Being home all the time has allowed me to stay more connected with my family, more family dinners, more time with the kids. This has been a real upside. And my guitar playing is getting a lot better!

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