The scopes of an architect are largely discussed but little is done for its implementation. Due to the pandemic, small scale projects and architectural firms have suffered immensely, therefore hitting the fraternity with a huge economic crisis that has rendered several architects helpless.
While there is an endless online conversation on the rejuvenation for a better society that embraces the “new normal”, the common misconception that the fraternity takes itself too seriously in this crisis with the limited scopes and role of an architect has also bred in the society.
Developing countries have fallen flat on GDP and the emergence from this low won’t be an event but a process full of tests and trials with stagnancy being the only failure. The role of architects for the rethinking of housing, workplaces, urban spaces, and infrastructural aspects will help the wheel move faster with efficient and consensual decision making for the people.
- Housing and domestic space
The concept of building vertically by stacking up dwelling units to save the ground area had taken full momentum, without paying much heed to the rapid rise of urban disparity like the city of Mumbai. While building vertical was argued to be sustainable, it became more of a status quo with luxurious condominiums and balconies looking over the slum areas like Dharavi. However, with the onset of the pandemic, the feasibility of these structures is being questioned now added with the concern of hygiene and density in a shared built space.
Housing layout, space, and density need to be rethought with every income group in mind. While the group with a stable work from home job craves for an outdoor seating, fresh air, and a comfortable place to live and work, the other fabric demands safe and hygienic living conditions with carefully redesigned service connections as they are more prone to the virus due to the lack of awareness and less availability of skilled medical facilities.
The building codes should be reformed as a response to this crisis with redefined regulations for horizontal and vertical circulations and open spaces. Crossing the notions of office and commercial buildings, sustainable and green-rated dwelling units have to be designed as well.
- Working space
While there has been a rising awareness about the commute to the working place and the in-built safety, hygiene, and the liveability of that space for the occupants, we have seen the notion of working from the “office” point of view. We need to rethink the working place for every job pursued in a country.
This involves the corporate sectors along with other sectors like the regular market and wholesale places for the retailers, the street side grocery vendors as well as the most crucial factor of the architectural fraternity, that is the construction sites. The same factors of safe, hygiene yet comfortable modes of working need to be considered for these sectors due to their indisputable service to the regular urban and rural life.
While there are a constant discussion and proposal of products for their benefits, it will take a considerable amount of effort and time to reach out to the grass-root level.
- Public places
Public spaces were the first to be hit by the pandemic and will be the last to gain back its essence in the post-pandemic world.
Squares, parks, playgrounds, streets, footpaths, and other spaces have already been largely studied by urban designers and planners. These spaces have witnessed failed and successful cases as they have acted as an intersection of tangible and intangible elements that can sometimes create wonders for a locality or be a dearth of social malpractices.
With the onset of pandemics, it has not only been a question of maintaining social distancing and hygiene but a threat to the notion of them being the heart of the city. There is a current dilemma of whether to strive for the throbbing life that one could witness in a park or rethink the overall conception of public and social life, centralization and decentralization. How will the new design guidelines cater to the medical guidelines and help people overcome the paranoia for crowded places?
Tactical urbanism can help overcome some of these problems by allowing small scale experiments by the neighborhood in the matters of localized issues for community spaces and can help improve the scenario with the guidance of the fraternity of architecture on the local level.
- Infrastructure development
Infrastructural advancement saw a stall of work during the first few months of lockdown which forces us to rethink the process of development of the projects and subsequent changes in planning with considerable deadlines.
This category involves the current condition of maintenance of existing, the planning of the ongoing, and the proposal of the new projects. Maintenance of the existing infrastructure is largely influenced by public transports which is currently being thought only from the point of social distancing but has to be redesigned from the planning level. That involves the redesigning of routes and the possibility of the connectivity to be multi-nodal and the subsequent requirements for its implementation.
It is important to take the opportunity of providing greater scopes for pedestrians and cyclists to reach their workplaces through efficient transportation planning. Keeping in the influx of vehicles in and out of the cities and localities, the proposed projects should be reconsidered for efficient land-use.
The positive aspect of this pandemic is that it has forced us to reconsider every loophole of our living system and the need to address them. It has given us the time to look back at the events and decide upon the future responses. The objective should consider the healing process along with security layers to give a sensitive and sustainable lifestyle. We have to think about the mental and emotional turmoil of the citizens and act with utmost dignity to every single life lost and many more to save.