A question every person, architect or not, has asked themselves before- what will architecture of the future look like? We probably will not be living in space stations like the movie Interstellar. We might not be colonizing another planet like in Avatar either. But there would certainly be a significant change in the way buildings of the future look.
In the past few years, many exemplary architecture trends have emerged, and the architecture discipline is constantly advancing and creating new things every day. There are many new concepts in Architecture—such as BIM, Parametric Architecture—that one can be excited to see incorporated into the buildings of tomorrow. But in the light of the global pandemic in 2020, response to such unforeseen issues on a global scale is one of the biggest challenges for architects of the future.
It has been a year and a half since the coronavirus was first spotted, and we will see the effect of the rupture it created on global health and economy for many years to come. Our world has suddenly begun to change faster than we can catch up and we need to embrace the changes, whether good or bad. The spread of the pandemic has led to some trends in architecture like modular architecture and adaptive reuse, to become more prominent than others.
Shigeru Ban is an eminent architect, who specializes in modular and sustainable architecture, to create quick, yet effective shelters to rehabilitate disaster victims. One such design created by him is the Paper Partition System, which he made for the victims who were displaced by the Tsunami in Japan and forced to live in crowded gymnasiums and public buildings for months together.
The world needs more architects to focus on prompt responses to such unexpected design challenges rather than just the big picture. Quick construction and modular architecture are one of the biggest needs in today’s world. The lack of quarantine centers and hospital facilities to contain the surging number of patients infected by coronavirus and our lack of preparedness in such a situation to instantly create temporary structures to meet these requirements is a mark of architectural failure.
Another major concept we see coming up fast is adaptive reuse. What was previously regarded as the sustainable method of reviving old buildings while preserving their value has now gained a new meaning. This proved to be a very efficient way of creating temporary facilities for quarantining and testing.
In 2020, hotels and dormitories of colleges all over India were converted to temporary health care centers. City landmarks in Mumbai such as the Goregaon-based NESCO exhibition center and the Mahalaxmi Race Course were also transformed into quarantine zones. Not only in India, but cities all around the world reused unconventional spaces with large capacities to help their people. Moving forward, we will need to improve the design of our spaces for emergency reuse at any point in time.
The biggest change brought by the covid-19 outbreak is the sudden confinement in our homes for months together. Staying inside for so long makes us realize all the flaws in our living quarters, which we barely paid attention to before–lack of proper acoustics for effective online meetings, appropriate workspaces with adequate light and ventilation, etc.
Residential architecture of the future needs to account for the scenario in which people get confined in their homes for large periods of time. The layout of a residence needs to be more spaced out and the spaces should be separable. Bedrooms and home offices spaced apart and away from noisy zones to provide for better acoustics in case of working from home.
Another key feature architects should accommodate in future residences is a small outdoor space. Being cooped up in an apartment without being able to even go to the terrace because of the fear of infection is a big disadvantage. Designs of the future need to make sure that your home should not be the last place you want to be in case of a crisis.
Social distancing and home quarantine for the past year have shown us that humans are social animals. We can only be alone for so much time before we crave community interaction. But the fear of catching an infection holds us back and begs the question: how will this affect cities in an urban context? If the future will not have normal occupancy in parks, shopping centers, pools, theatres, etc. What would people do?
In a future where density is something that needs to be avoided, as designers, we need to revisit the fundamentals of city planning. Universities opening their classrooms to encourage more outdoor teaching, and increased outdoor seating in restaurants to provide adequate spacing between tables are some of the simpler solutions that are being provided by architects. This is just scratching the surface of an array of possibilities. If we want a future where the “new normal” is something that people are okay with, then we need to rethink the way we design spaces entirely.
The pandemic has definitely changed the way Architects see their surroundings and it will have a significant impact on the architecture of the future. But it now raises the major question–is an outbreak of a virus enough to render our profession useless? Or will architects change the way people perceive the field for the better and prove to be a profession that can adapt to any situation?
The design industry needs to think about how architecture will evolve in this fast-paced digital world. The coronavirus outbreak just reminded us of how unprepared we are for the future. But it has allowed us to rethink the way we develop and (re)design our cities. It is of utmost importance that we, as designers of the future, rise to the task and provide our world with responsible and responsive design that can serve the future generation like never before.