After the severe lockdown that has been driven by the Covid-19 pandemic and the series of safety measurements that had to be adopted by the whole world, it is no surprise that many industries, architecture being one of them, had to come to a sudden halt. People were forced to adapt to the situation in the most unusual of ways, spending months indoors. In contrast, architects were driven to question the norms of design and construction again and rethink the quality of the spaces to be created in the future.

One of the aspects of spaces that is usually underrated and had to be taken into serious consideration is the future of “transitional spaces.” What do architects mean by transitional spaces? Are transitional spaces only linking areas, or should they be designed as whole spaces of their own? How did Covid-19 change the vision of these spaces, and what are the changes that must be incorporated into their design, to adapt to the post-pandemic world?

What is a Transitional Space?

By definition, and as the name states, transitional spaces are intermediate areas, usually between the outdoor and the indoor. In contrast to the simplistic image that comes to one’s mind of transitional spaces being a tight corridor or a small balcony, these are way more diverse and can be presented as courtyards, foyers, verandas, pergolas, porticos, porches, lobbies, etc. Therefore, it is quite clear to imply that these transitional spaces are not built to serve a single function of connectivity and linking, but more to house and accommodate a variety of activities. 

Being subject to a frequent evolution, these spaces have to abide by the needs of their users, which implies being designed following specific criteria. Taking into consideration this dynamism of evolution, transitional spaces can be referred to as “Dynamic Spaces”, bridges between two or more “Static Spaces” whose functions are already set and predefined. 

Moreover, transitional spaces play a fundamental role when it comes to the connection between architecture and nature, through the concept of terraces, backyards, as previously mentioned, water ponds, etc.

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The Veranda Courthouse, a Transitional Space_©0-office Architects
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Veranda and Balcony Transitional Spaces_©jooinn.com

Re-thinking Transitional Spaces Post-Pandemic

In the light of the changes that the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has driven, the impulsive response of architects and designers can be defined in 1 word: Reassessment. Transitional spaces, just like any other space or function, have been subject to serious reevaluation, and their means of design have been thoroughly reconsidered and deeply rethought. 

This period of isolation that humanity had to face made every single person reexamine again what it is that they truly require and what do they look for in the architecture and spaces they inhabit. Many needs were proven to be actual necessities for a healthier way of living in the post-pandemic world. Considering transitional spaces, three main needs are non-negotiable and fundamental: the need for space, the need for comfort, and the need for the outdoors.

1. The Need for Space

The severe lockdown regulations that had to be set by the governments by the start of March 2020 have had more than just the apparent consequence of people isolating themselves and spending all their time indoors. These physical distancing rules have indeed highlighted a very important need: the need for activity-fueled spaces. 

For the individuals who did not have access to such recreational spaces of exercise and entertainment, most, if not all, of their days were spent on their living room’s couch, the furthest they could get from their beds. Here is where architects start to reconsider the importance of transitional spaces within houses and the need to make smart and good usage of these. 

In cities and areas where the rural aspect lacks, transitional spaces in the forms of gardens and terraces could not just improve the quality of life of the locals, and provide them with outdoor spaces to exercise, meditate and gather, but could also play an important role in fighting pollution and promoting sustainability on the small and larger scale. 

Moreover, left-over spaces in cities can also be made use of in similar ways, making more space for recreational, cultural, and social activities.

It is interesting to take a look at Ibda’s Design proposal which aims to revive an abandoned site in Lebanon, one which was left unfinished by Architect Oscar Niemeyer back in 1960. This image depicts the architecture firm’s will to create a pleasant outdoor space, filled with greeneries, a space that plays the role of “transitional space” between the various volumes and installations of Niemeyer.

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Ibda’s Design Proposal, Lebanon – Transitional Outdoor Space_©Ibda Design

2. The Need for Comfort and Connection

The pandemic had strongly shed light on the notion of comfort. In architecture, comfort is associated with safety, stability, and pleasure. Moreover, many studies have proven that people tend to socialize in a much easier way if they feel comfortable in the space they are in. Transitional spaces, as mentioned previously, take the function of a space of their own and are not only bridges between two static spaces.

Therefore, transitional spaces must be designed while taking into consideration the comfort of the users, thus privileging their safety and well-being. For example, streets that are considered as transitional spaces between towns or avenues can be planned with the vision of becoming centres of recreation and socialization, and not just spaces of movement and circulation.

This concept is indeed clear in Snøhetta’s approach of the Time Squares Reconstruction, whose urban reconfiguration and landscaping created a successful transitional pedestrian space on the larger scale of one of the busiest cities in the world.

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Times Square Reconstruction_©Snøhetta

It is also possible to consider as an accurate representation the new Outdoor Arts Space connecting Nasher Museum and “the Ruby” at Duke University. This transitional space has in fact been designed as a work of art itself!

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Outdoor Arts Space, Duke University_©today.duke.edu

3. The Need for Interactive Spaces Within

Transitional spaces such as common recreational areas that invite the interaction of people amongst each other have in fact been proven as a need and necessity, especially in spaces of work (offices, schools, universities…). By giving importance to these kinds of quality spaces, it is only natural to improve the users’ well-being and productivity, as well as lift their moods through spaces that invite communication, in a comfortable and interactive setting.

In d.a.architects’ project ATES Windpower Headquarters, the architects focus on improving the life of the workers and employees, through the transformation of the transitional spaces between the offices and the various functions into recreational areas, equipped with seats and indoors vertical gardens. Thanks to these spaces found on the various levels of the office building, the result is a pleasant ambiance, where people can freely find a space of relaxation and interaction with their colleagues.

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ATES Windpower Headquarters – Recreational Transitional Spaces_©d.a.architects

References

Abdel, H. (2021, June 19). ATES Wind Power Headquarters / d.a.architects. Retrieved from Archdaily: https://www.archdaily.com/963369/ates-wind-power-headquarters-da-architects?ad_source=myarchdaily&ad_medium=bookmark-show&ad_content=current-user

Alsammarae, R. (2019, August 7). Ibda Design creates proposal to revive abandoned modernist site in Lebanon. Retrieved from Architectural Digest Middle East: https://www.admiddleeast.com/architecture-interiors/architecture/ibda-design-creates-proposal-to-revive-abandoned-modernist-site-in-lebanon

Duke Today Stff. (2019, April 26). PLANS ANNOUNCED FOR NEW OUTDOOR ARTS SPACE CONNECTING NASHER MUSEUM AND ‘THE RUBY’. Retrieved from Duke Today: https://today.duke.edu/2019/04/plans-announced-new-outdoor-arts-space-connecting-nasher-museum-and-ruby

Howarth, D. (2017, April 19). Snøhetta’s Times Square transformation officially opens. Retrieved from dezeen: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/04/19/snohetta-times-square-new-york-transformation-pedestrian-plazas-officially-opens-architecture-news/

Author

Angela Hanna is a senior architecture student at the university of USEK, Lebanon. Having always been passionate about reading, she states that words have a wicked and powerful way to change our perception and therefore our reality. She believes that through the creation of spaces, we create emotions and enhance mindsets, thus which will work in favor of building a better world.

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