The high infection risks posed by COVID-19 in large crowds initially signaled a death knell for most events and public spaces. Hence, it also posed the same threat to architectural conferences, seminars, workshops, and debates. Professionals that frequented such events had to adapt to the new, isolated lifestyles and societal norms forced upon the populace, as a consequence of lockdowns and shelter-in-place directives issued to combat the spread of the virus. Out of this situation emerged a growth in the volume of online events, which reconnected people across the barriers of distance imposed by these measures. While they weren’t an entirely new concept, the sheer number of digital conferences, panel discussions, and webinars this year increased almost exponentially due to the peculiar situation the world found itself in.
Comelite Architecture, Structure, and Interior Design held a webinar on the 6th of April, 2020 to discuss how architecture and interior design could adapt to the new design and health considerations created by COVID-19 and better address the risks posed by future pandemics. Commonly abbreviated as C.A.S.
Comelite Architecture is a London-based firm, founded in 2013 with additional offices in Amsterdam. C.A.S. has worked on projects in North America, Europe, and the GCC region – particularly in Saudi Arabia.
Their clientele comprises private sector clients and developers, covering diverse typologies such as hospitality, commercial, residential and religious structures. The firm is committed to delivering high-quality, creative solutions to clients through intensive collaboration and research. The session moderated by Amelia Larsson, a mid-level principal at Comelite Architecture, ran for just under an hour. Its content touched upon topics such as the changes in lifestyles due to the pandemic along with solutions to combat the threat of disease.
The first couple of presentations covered topics such as measures to mitigate disease transmission as well as design principles and solutions for the post-pandemic world. Emphasis was placed on the strength that humans possess through collaboration in communities and their capacity for adaptation, which have ensured the species’ survival for millennia. To this end, they explored the benefits of ‘Human-Centred Design and Architecture’- an approach that puts the user at the forefront of the design process and considers their needs first.
Additionally, they also studied common mediums of disease transmission and presented solutions to minimize the risk posed by each one of them in the form of design strategies, sanitation measures, planning elements, and technological implements. These presentations were fairly straightforward in their approach to identifying issues and presenting measures to solve them. Their content covered topics at a level of complexity that could be easily comprehended by all, regardless of whether they were laymen attending the webinar seeking home improvement measures or professionals devising solutions to the problems faced by a post-pandemic world.
The third and final speaker explored how interior design could be redefined by COVID-19 and subsequently suggested material choices, technological solutions, and design elements that could prevent the spread of disease and still incorporate aesthetic and functional value to spaces. Conventional interior finishes and paints were studied and categorized based on their associated risk of disease transmission concerning factors such as durability, porosity, or antimicrobial properties.
This presentation also drew light to hygienic antimicrobial alternatives to conventional interior finishes that possess equal aesthetic appeal in their implementation. Their versatility allows for their use within a myriad of spatial typologies and functions. The topics of environmentally conscious materials, identifying logos, and certifications were also touched upon over the course of the webinar.
Finally, smart solutions like touchless technology and new planning norms that promote better hygiene were highlighted. While this section of Comelite Architecture’s webinar focused more on material specifications, the presentations made sure to avoid overly technical jargon to maintain their accessibility to a wide audience.
A common issue in these sorts of webinars is the difficulty for attendees to maintain their level of interest throughout an hour-long series of presentations or lectures that facilitate little or no interaction between attendees. We lose much of the spectacle and atmosphere of in-person conferences or public speaking events when they shift to a video-call format. Interaction between attendees and speakers was an integral feature of in-person conferences, workshops, or seminars, and devising methods to integrate it within webinars may further improve engagement in online events until life returns to normal.
This webinar was the first in a series of online events organized by Comelite Architecture which examined the potential contributions that architecture and design can make in addressing the concerns raised by COVID-19. There was a strong recurring theme about the importance of design solutions that precisely cater to a client’s unique needs, due to the diversity in tastes and priorities among clients, which persisted throughout the session.
Instead of relying on a single template for all, the presentations advocated user-specific design methodologies to generate the best outcomes for public health and individual satisfaction or comfort. In fact, this webinar may be ideal for those looking to hire an architect or interior designer for construction or renovation projects as it covers many relevant topics that would give them a background knowledge of the field and help them communicate their ideas effectively with practitioners.