Photo by Eirik Uhlen

The era of social distancing and what architects will be tasked with post Covid-19

As we all know the outbreak of COVID-19 has placed dent in the way that we will go about social interaction and everyday routines. Society will have to opt for ways to contain further outbreaks of the disease and look for creative and applicable solutions that will allow the public to keep a safe distance, while continuing with the essentials of daily practices.

In order to alleviate further outbreaks, architecture has a major responsibility in studying the proximity of individuals –spatial distance– and rethinking human traffic and airflow of any given site. That means, traditional style thinking of interior spaces will have to be assessed down to the smallest detail.

What strategies do you think could be essential in helping the situation?

Researchers have been considering the application of time-sharing. Essentially meaning that groups of people will be allocated to different areas of a given space. In order to do so, researchers have been carefully examining different functions and activities of different settings such as schools and offices, to see if there is a meaningful approach to accommodate different crowds. So, you must break down the various activities that we know humans take part in throughout the day. Thinking of schools as an example, you have students which are either in study period or involved in recreational activities, and in order to not disrupt learning and keep students safe, there has to be a holistic approach to fit new sanitary guidelines and restrictions.

Something else which we have seen been done all over the world since the beginning of the outbreak, is the need for adaptive reusing. Which means turning large existing facilities into healthcare destinations. Those may be hotels, stadiums, schools, and so on, and taking that already built infrastructure and retrofitting it into nursing and medical stations for those affected. Fundamentally architects are tasked with finding a use for public spaces to adapt to the needs of others, and I order to do so they will be tasked with finding unexpected sites to be adapted to healthcare needs.

What it boils down to is designing a space with a diverse multitude of user groups. Which will allow us to enhance social functionality and still maintain a safe environment. The word which perfectly describes that notion is affordance. For those of you that don’t know what the word means, it is the way that an object or a building is designed and the clues it leaves behind as to how that object or space should be used. So, widening the base of affordances which a building has, will provide us with multiple functions of its use. That way, all spaces which have been underutilized can now serve an impactful purpose to those affected. So for young designers like yourself, you will have to think about all of the issues the world is currently facing, and how you can make an impactful contribution to help remedy the situation and better the lives of everyone.

Start thinking about the building’s structure and function and how you can give that space the ability to serve different purposes. This period in time will require all of us to come up with creative solutions to help tackle this pandemic and help drive the world to a better direction.



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