Over the course of the past year and a half people have become increasingly aware of their built spaces amid the widespread Coronavirus. Our retreat into our homes has changed the dynamic we shared with these built spaces, both outdoor and indoor. We have started looking at our dwelling places to meet our requirements for office spaces, classrooms, and urban spaces of enjoyment and relaxation.
The urban built spaces are also dealing with changes as a consequence of the pandemic. Streets have become walking spaces for the public and sidewalks have turned into small eating spaces, spilling over from restaurants. Built to a different urban rhythm, the architecture of our cities and homes is facing an upheaval, conducting a certain shift in how we understand and use our built environment.
The Relationship Between Built Spaces and the Society
The relationship between society and its built space has always been one active synergy. Urban population movement and community development have been key elements of urban development. The physical environment plays an important part in shaping societal norms and constructing worldviews. Our buildings and consequently built spaces are a result of social needs and they accommodate political, educational, cultural, and religious functions, amongst others. They are built, adapted, moved, and demolished according to societal shifts in ideologies and policies.
The post-world war architectural style of Brutalism evolved as a means of providing shelter in addition to maintaining low costs and confining to strict building regulations. Similarly, after the deadly cholera outbreak in 19th century London, the river Thames was cleaned and new outdoor public spaces were developed to allow for freer and open movement, in contrast to the tightly-knit disease-prone communities earlier.
Pandemics have always dealt a devastating blow on the life, economy, and the built structure of society. Coronavirus isn’t the first pandemic to have brought society to a complete standstill and it surely will not be the last. The Black Death in the 12th century, the cholera outbreak in the 17th century, and the Spanish Flu of 1918 have proved over and over again that social behaviour changes concerning hygiene and public interaction, and architecture consequently changes to adapt to newly constructed norms and patterns.
Societal Changes as a Consequence of Coronavirus
Coronavirus has changed our perspective on how public spaces and architecture can be used in times of widespread contagion diseases. Moreover, it has shifted our views on dwelling units, with bedrooms becoming office spaces and dining spaces turning into classrooms; our homes need re-designing and reimagining. Our society has also become increasingly concerned about the mitigation of communicable diseases and architecture would be looked upon to be able to marginally mitigate the element of physical contact, leading to automated developments and infrastructures.
Changes and Challenges to Architecture Due to Coronavirus
With the society shifting its ideologies concerning pandemic causing diseases like Coronavirus, architecture will and has to very soon respond to address them. Our dwelling spaces, where we retreated from the pandemic, will now look to be capable of handling more activities. Open plan designs will be restructured to accommodate the different frequencies of activities going on at the same time and new layouts with individual privacy will have to be developed.
Spaces will also have to be reworked with storage in mind in an attempt to boost productivity. Thoughtful design innovations and improved technology will also help to conserve energy and build more sustainably.
Perhaps as a result of the changing aspects of a society’s physical interaction, our views on privacy and individual space will also need reworking. How we view the relationships between an individual with respect to the family and the family with respect to the neighbourhood will need to be understood. With the layering of design from private spaces to public spaces, the urban fabric will have to adapt to the societal concerns of meaningful connections, physical and mental health, and a deadly pandemic.
The home office will become a selling space, a way to price houses at a higher cost. Architects will look to develop spaces within the house to cater to these needs, often separating them from the main unit. Inclusivity and exclusivity as well as visual interactions between the working and resting spaces will become a primary concern during the planning stages. The architecture of our homes will see functional spaces being separated with curtain walls and partition boards where one can pop in for work and then walk out into the living room for a cup of tea with the family.
Certainly, ‘fluidity’ will become a raging aspect for navigating the spaces, whether at home, in the office, at gyms and bars, or shopping centers. Offices and workplaces will also face the challenge to adapt to these changing views. More open layouts and personal cabins will pop up, making the environment feel safe and secure from contamination. Good ventilation and proper traffic design will be incorporated, implementing efficient wayfinding and marking systems to reduce crowding and encourage personal spaces.
Prefabricated houses will see a surge in demand. Families will want to leave the congested city for longer periods and seeing a quicker and more economical second home, the popularity for these will go up. This will be an architectural shift in terms of economy, primarily. With smaller sizes and quick setup and maintenance, individuals or families will look towards these as substitutes for the traditional holiday homes, or rent one until they build their own.
Automation is already being tested and will certainly become a standard in homes and urban infrastructures, from hospitals to car parks. Voice-activated elevators, automatically opening public washroom doors, automated luggage bag tags, hands-free light switches, and temperature controls and much more will become the norm. Hospitals, the worst affected places by the Coronavirus, will see drastically improved layouts with reduced flat surfaces and improved ventilation units.
Looking towards a New Dawn in Architecture and Design
As Coronavirus plagues our societies and forces communities to disband, pack up and withdraw into their homes we can be certain that life will not be the same as before. Our urban spaces need reworking and restructuring. Definitions of public and private spaces need to change and the solution lies foremost in architecture and henceforth in our understanding of our built environment and each other.
As, after every major pandemic, architecture will once more face newer challenges, and hopefully change to incorporate elements and technologies that will mitigate the fear of contagion while bringing the community together.
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