International Stories

Hank Koning

As part of our commitment to keeping architects connected across the world during this extraordinary time, we’ve invited some of our International Chapter members to share their experience of living and working in a time of pandemic. International Chapter Councillor, Hank Koning, lives and works in Santa Monica, in the State of California, which is seeing the full effects of the pandemic. During the beginning of the pandemic, in April, Hank shared his experience of working remotely, but staying connected with his team of staff.

I hope you are all well and surviving in these most strange times.

I am in Santa Monica, a small city in California embraced by Los Angeles.

Our studio of 22 have all ‘sheltered at home’ and are working remotely.

It’s a challenge.

Thankfully we have remote access, Zoom, Google hangouts, etc. to make this possible. This would have been much more difficult 10 years ago. 

But it’s hard being physically isolated. I am lucky and have the benefit of a house with a yard. Others are stuck in a small apartment without outdoor space and limited options for getting out and exercising – unless you have a dog.

Our business has slowed down and we are doing our darndest to keep our staff employed. Layoffs and salary cuts have been avoided but that may not last long.

Isolation is difficult and to compensate, staff have put in place communal activities to maintain a sense of connection to each other. These include:

  • A communal film night, watching “Koolhaas Houselife,” a french movie that follows the day-to-day life of the housekeeper on the OMA designed house in France. We all synchronized the start of the movie, drank wine, ate cheese and made snarky remarks as we together, remotely watched the movie.
  • Dinner Roulette, where folks purchased a surprise delivered dinner for one other person and then all ate communally over a chat room explaining why they purchased what they did for that person.
  • Making of PPE for medical staff. We all pitched in to 3D-print face shields and masks for medical personnel as there was a shortage in the State – make that the nation. Old unused printers were brought back to life and made useful again. See attached photo.

And we maintain bi-weekly staff and project team meetings over hangouts.

It’s hard but we are determined to hang together and survive. 

Hank Koning is the founding principal of Koning Eizenberg and has been in practice for almost 40 years. As an Australian expatriate, Hank, together with Julie Eizenberg, were jointly named as the reciepients of the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2019 Gold Medal – the nation’s highest architecture honour.

Koning Eizenberg has ‘lead a movement of architect-designed social housing and community-focused projects in the United States,’ from their base in Santa Monica, and have worked on award-winning affordable housing, education and civic projects, often in underprivileged communities. Integrated sustainable design is prominent in all their work.

Hank has been a committee member and Chapter Councillor of the Institute’s International Chapter since 2010, and has been active in its development. In addition to his Institute involvement, he has served on the Santa Monica Planning Commission for seven years and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council.