Among the many questions we all ask ourselves right now is how architecture and design will conceive houses, spaces, and buildings after all this is over. The reason for this question is simply logical because all experts agree that, after the end of confinement, social distancing should be a rule to follow for at least two years.
This will certainly change the world as we know it. The design of offices, shopping centers, schools, markets, hotels, neighborhoods, and residencies will be designed based on other parameters.
Many websites of architecture, design and urbanism have already started to talk about the change of the pompous, collective, and magnificent for the personal, private, and digital. In fact, some architects are already beginning to think about the use of antibacterial materials such as copper for finishes and the development of some new ones to be used for constructions.
Also, conversations have already started regarding the vital importance to come up with a new concept for hospital architecture, since the current solutions for that purpose have highlighted its inability to deal with large emergencies. In any case, the COVID19 or coronavirus as you prefer to call it, has been a catalyst for architecture (and for other areas as well) to rethink what has been done so far.
In contact, but keeping the distance
Perhaps one of the most important issues under consideration in architectural environments these days is the density of cities. There are those who don’t see the enemy in this, but there are also those who insist that a reformulation is necessary.
Those who advocate for big cities insist that well-designed communities inspired in the style of European villages, can be a solution. Therefore, the proposal is to bet on urbanisms with small buildings of spacious apartments with balconies and interior patios with shared clotheslines, that is, a mixture of community and intimacy in a single package.
Obviously, this implies a contrast with the model that has become very fashionable in China in recent years: gigantic and super modern mini-cities located in a radio of 2 blocks, consisting of 1 million square feet, and 4,000 residents under one roof.
Architects and interior designers are then faced with a great dilemma: How can we keep human contact, the one that feeds the soul, while we preserve the “current healthy social distance”?
Recently, a professional in the field reflected on the question in Archdaily. In the article he said that one of the great concerns in his industry today is the acute loneliness and depression that can originate if they begin to design based on the premise of distancing and excessive privacy.
He made a call to consider the great value of green spaces and the connection with nature both in our cities and within our homes, as well the human need for congregation or gathering. “People need neighbors to see frequently and listen to each other (…) but it takes more than just a balcony to share such human experiences.”
Offices with zero physical contact
Something that has become important again is the possibility of working from home. For that purpose, many designers have already set in motion their masterminds to offer solutions to those who won’t have to leave home to work.
However, while this home office thing will be part of our new reality, there are also architectural studios that have thought of possibilities for designing and redesigning the buildings of large corporations. The proposals in this regard are as diverse as they are technological.
So, while certain forums talk about highly technological buildings whose doors, elevators and services can be controlled by smartphone-activated codes, there are those who are inclined to simply reduce the density in offices, reformulate open plants in them, and prioritize natural ventilation over the recycled air from air conditioners.
Arjun Kaicker, who worked at Foster and Partners for a decade, told The Guardian that the architecture to come will see in the skyscrapers only tall, expensive buildings to build with less efficient results in terms of security. “I think that we’ll see companies with wider corridors and doors, more partitions between departments and more stairs,” says Kaicker, who now leads the area of analysis and information at Zaha Hadid Architects.
In fact, Kaicker explained that his team at ZHA has designed a building with “contactless pathways” for a waste management company in the United Arab Emirates. This means that employees will rarely have to touch a surface with their hands to navigate the building, they will be able to call the elevators from a smartphone, and the office doors will open automatically using motion sensors and facial recognition.
“With 80% of infectious diseases transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces, the future will be filled with hands-free actions,” he said.