Historically, crises have proven to be milestones in the evolution of humanity. When brought to its knees, society has shed its conservative outlook and responded with innovations that changed the way we live. The Covid-19 pandemic has once again raised a few questions and, considering its reach and impact in everyday life, a lot of the onus is on the Architectural community. Architects need to ensure a smooth transition to the new normal. It is essential to plan a system that can facilitate revival whilst ensuring healthy and hygienic living conditions.
While every nook and corner of society needs intervention, here are 10 important and interesting areas that future Architects need to explore.
1. Urban Planning and Decentralization
There are many important cities around the world that are social and economic powerhouses and can generate much more revenue than many countries. The idea of reducing the density of such cities by spreading out economic activities is not feasible on multiple fronts. Here, there is a need to plan towards promoting human interaction with nature rather than the built environment.
It is also important to decentralize certain activities concentrated in one area for multiple reasons, including competition, and create zones that have all the facilities to meet the demands of smaller chunks of the population. This also points to a shift in preference towards shops in niche markets rather than a one-stop shop for all needs.
Although home delivery services have become more popular nowadays, the existing system is not efficient enough to cater to the entire population. Even if that was not the case, grocery shopping is an activity that many people prefer doing themselves. However, the shops are designed only to maximize profits, which results in long queues and crowded aisles.
A hassle-free shopping experience and quick check-out should be ensured through design, especially considering that people have minimum control over distancing in such places.
3. New Transportation Systems
Dividing urban spaces into multiple, self-sustaining zones will also change the transportation requirements of the public. The focus will slowly shift from popular modes of transportation like buses, rickshaws, cars, etc. to walking, micro-mobility devices, and other modes of transportation that use smarter sources of energy.
The concept of ownership is also losing popularity and could potentially be replaced by renting. Hence it is important to ensure proper infrastructure and connectivity to aid a smooth transition.
4. Home Offices
Work from Home was a culture that always existed but has received a major push during the pandemic. This trend helps companies and employees save on infrastructure and transportation costs, respectively. This, however, has added additional scope to the functionality of a regular home. Bedrooms and living rooms are now being remodelled to accommodate a makeshift workspace. If not planned well, this could take away the warmth and calm of a home.
There is a scope here to professionally integrate a workspace into the house without disturbing the sanctity of what it was originally designed to be.
5. Co-working Spaces
One of the negative aspects of working from home is the stress and anxiety from having to work alone. Studies have shown that the majority of people prefer being in a shared workspace over working alone. However, with the increasing popularity of the Work From Home culture, this is no more a choice.
This is where the co-working spaces need to adapt into a safe space where people can experience a sense of community without compromising on health and a sense of safety.
6. Airport Redesign
Airports are said to be the first source of virus spread for any place, and hence it is extremely important to manage the activities within its boundaries. While guidelines and protocols are in place, it is difficult to create a foolproof system that ensures no infected person enters the airport.
The next step in such a scenario would be to control the movement of users so as to ensure minimum contact, thus preventing the airport from being the source of a mass spread.
7. Slum Redevelopment
Slums are always at risk of being virus hot-spots due to their unhygienic living conditions and high population density. Civic bodies need to partner with Architects and scientists to ensure infrastructural growth and design interventions leading to a social and economical upgrade within the society.
8. Innovate Going Vertical
While elevators opened up the possibility of vertical construction, they also brought about a new set of problems like social deprivation and congested spaces. Add to that the tiny elevator boxes, which are now potentially hazardous places one must avoid during a pandemic. Hence, keeping in mind the obvious benefits of vertical construction, we can rethink vertical transportation and explore sustainable vertical cities.
While such concepts have been deemed futuristic in the past, there is an urgent need to pick up speed and deliver practical solutions today.
9. Refugee Shelters and Other Temporary Structures
The past year has shown that many countries are underprepared concerning the infrastructure needed to survive a pandemic. Hospitals are unable to admit patients due to a lack of beds and this led to casualties and caused panic among the people.
Modular medical facilities and refugee shelters give hospitals and the government the flexibility to expand during an unprecedented crisis. Hence, neither do the people have to suffer helplessly at home nor do the hospital have to compromise on the safety of in- patients.
10. Hospital Redesign
There is a sense of fear associated with hospital visits that have been amplified over the past couple of years. A massive, uncontrolled influx of people, either suffering from complications relating to Covid-19 or trying to get themselves vaccinated, has made it difficult for hospitals to function efficiently. This, ironically, makes hospitals a potential place to get infected with the virus.
Design intervention to manage, accommodate, differentiate and control the movement of the crowd is therefore important to ensure the safety of visitors and healthcare workers.
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