How to create a virtual architecture studio 

21 March, 2020

From Monday, all of BDP’s 500 UK and Ireland staff will be working remotely from home. Radek Kaminski, web and intranet manager at the practice, the country’s biggest after Foster + Partners, was on leave when coronavirus struck. He recounts the race against time to get ‘the virtual studio’ ready to go.

“It’s been quite unprecedented,” says Radek, 15 years with BDP. “For me in IT, it was not so much of an issue because I was familiar with working remotely. But to get everybody set up properly – it has been a massive challenge over the last two weeks, involving a lot of late nights, training people how to use the system, providing everyone with laptops and the software who needed them, and testing the connectivity.”

The goal was to set up systems as quickly as possible so that every employee could connect to their main office computers with vast processing power via their simple laptops at home “so it would feel like they were sitting in front of their machines in the studio.”

Problems with server capacity, a common issue with many companies, not just in architecture, as thousands of staff moved online, was overcome, says Radik, because most of their systems are Cloud-based, thus scalable. Though he did say that some sharing platforms, like Microsoft Teams, temporarily went down in the early days as volume surged.

In terms of face-to-face contact, BDP had been using Skype for Business for a long time, especially for conference calls across its 15 studios across the world. “People were already familiar with it.” And regards cybersecurity to protect intellectual property, another critical issue facing companies moving towards ‘a virtual studio’, he said: “We were already working on secure connectivity throughout the company with the highest level of encryption.”

On advice to smaller practices, he said: “Smaller practices have much smaller problems. Dealing with hundreds of people has been really hard – but in principle, the task is the same, to plug into the resources still in the office,” said Radik. But he did recommend Splashtop Business Access, among many, as useful software enabling multi-device connectivity they used at BDP.

BDP won Best Digital Team in the 2019 Archiboo Awards. The Awards will launch in May 2020