Inculcation of social distancing within interactive spaces is the irony this read is going to elaborate on further. The motive of Interactive spaces revolves closely around the gathering of masses, speech, performing certain activities, and even to an extent living around strangers. On the other hand, the outbreak of the Coronavirus which has propagated social distancing as its primary precaution to prevent the cause has become a complete contradiction to the objective with which public spaces or interactive spaces are built. About the current scenario, the architects are now disquiet with the reimagining of the interactive spaces balancing out the situation created, the main question somehow being how can one balance out a barrier-free environment with an environment which has barriers and rules?
The provision of interactive spaces in any kind is of utmost need and importance. There are several reasons for this human need. Few of them being, it promises a passive engagement with the environment which in terms also keeps the people aware of what is going on and what other people are up to. It also helps in bringing a considerable percentage of the balance in life by social commuting and intellectual engagement. It induces a sense of belonging and psychological well-being. There are several types of public spaces like cafeterias, parks, market places and so on which engages people from all the age groups. It also acts as pause points for people who just want to sit and relax off their timed schedule and a daily economic factor for a lot of people, hence the need of public space is a major concern for an architect, an urban designer or an urban planner which has been hindered due to the pandemic.
Regardless of the importance of interactive spaces, it’s open and inviting nature has increased the numbers of virus-infected patients drastically. For example, the United States came into motion during May and the number has now gone to twenty-three lakhs and counting, India has recently been put to work and the numbers have jumped thousands to four lakhs and counting and so on. Hence, the main focus has now become to bring the countries to working by keeping all safety measures in check. Some of the places which have done it successfully are mentioned below.
1. The Gastro Safe Zone, Czech Republic
A public space proposal made by HUA HUA Architects for mass movement on streets maintaining the required in-between distance post-pandemic. Regulating multiple outside eateries, the first implementation of a module is done in Brno in the Czech Republic.
The pandemic has immensely impacted the entire economy, the use of public spaces, and the eatery sector hence, maintaining social distance and starting to gear up the economy and these spaces, the HUA HUA Architects have drawn a space grid to carry out the balance. The government has cooperated and provided them with bigger spaces, hence the grid which is laid out provides spacing between tables and the people while coming in or moving out.
2. Domino Park, NYC
Public parks are another place that invites a huge chunk of people and understanding the importance of maintenance of social distancing here and carrying out all safety measures, landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations has designed and chalk painted distancing circles in the domino park.
The people can come and occupy the one-one circle and enjoy the same experience as pre-pandemic scenarios. The park also has signboards indicating wearing of masks and social distancing. The execution of this urban design intervention makes sure that people are following all the procedures made by the CDC and government.
3. Italian Plaza – StoDistante Installation, Vecchio
Italian architect firm Caret Studio has taken the initiative to reactivate the Italian plaza by designing and executing an installation called the StoDistante installation. Located in a square in the town of Vecchio near Florence, the temporary installation is a set of gradients of solid squares which increases in size decreasing the distance between the two squares and varies till a decrease in the sizes and increased distance among individual solid squares.
The motive of this installation being ease of movement and also allowance for people to move out of their feeling safe and secure and acceptance of the new normal.
4. NACTO Street Design, North America
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has laid down some policies which shall be followed during the time of crisis and post the crisis respectively for the streets. The policies include- lanes for Biking and Rolling, Sidewalk Extensions, Transit lanes, Slow Streets, Pick-Up and delivery zones, outdoor dining, and markets.
The aim is simple and direct: that is the continuation of the functionality of the place and yet keeping distance and avoiding prominent gatherings. All the spaces which a street accommodates have been thought of again for a healthier environment and all accommodating the new normal in the lives of the public.
Future considerations for designing public spaces will have a major influence on the existing pandemic ensuring safety and hygiene. With the cooperation of the citizens and the government body, the existing interactive spaces can be well thought of and redesigned according to the pandemic in all the parts of the world not only architecturally but also at urban policy levels laws have to be made to adhere to such situations. With the current scenario being fairly uncertain, it arises a challenge for the designers to build spaces that would pertain to any pandemic caused 50-100 years from now.