The worldwide spread of COVID-19 has affected all our daily lives and has completely reformed our approach towards living. With social distancing being the fundamental need of the hour, our whole idea of the functionality of living, working and recreational spaces is getting questioned and self-sufficient, isolated places are becoming the new-age necessities. As the world is now slowly unlocking and adapting to life amidst a pandemic, designers are being called upon to rethink and reshape our built spaces to effectively cope with these unprecedented times. Architects, urban planners and interior designers, all play a huge role in the formation of this new world, both amidst and post-pandemic, as the very notion of our way of living is being challenged. Listed below are a few examples of how designers and creators are embracing this challenge.

Redevelopment of urban spaces

After months of limiting ourselves to our homes, designers have started playing with the idea of ‘socially-interactive isolation’. Martin Binder and Claudio Rimmele from Berlin have drafted the concept of a physically distant playground for children to safely play in during the pandemic. As a visionary duo of a designer and a psychologist, the creators of ‘Rimbin’ believe that young kids need both social and physical stimuli for effective mental and physical development. The resultant product is a cluster of lilypad-like pieces of furniture that are meant to be individual playing platforms. Separate paths lead up to separate entrances of these pads that in turn accommodate various games and activities like seesaws, ladders and hamster wheels. These platforms are also lined with hollow tubes that allow the kids to speak to each other. All the handles and tubes are made from metal for easy sanitization of surfaces. The core idea behind ‘Rimbin’ is to let the children visually and verbally communicate with a safe distance between them.

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Rimbin ©www.dezeen.com
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Rimbin ©www.dezeen.com
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Rimbin ©www.dezeen.com
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Rimbin ©www.dezeen.com

Rethinking the design of recreation

After a rigid and strict lockdown in most parts of the world, people are now emerging from their homes and are gradually trying to safely re-engage with their societies. A huge sector of our economy is dependent on the hospitality industry that is now slowly reopening its gates to the public. Christophe Gernigon of France based Christophe Gernigon Studio has conceptualised a product to allow people to safely return to restaurants and bars. The product is a transparent visor in the shape of a bell, made of plexiglass that can be suspended from the ceiling over the user’s upper bodies. Named as ‘Plex Eat’, the visor forms a shield over each diner’s face and reduces the risk of transmission of the virus without the need of a face mask. Its wide base and tapering top forms a truncated cone that is ideal for space optimization and adds a savvy look as well. The cone opens elegantly from the back to allow comfortable and easy movement to the diner. After the creation and approval of Plex’eat’s prototype, Gernigon is now working on a bigger and portable version of the same. “The idea is to protect but also to allow people to live a unique and playful experience, feeling well and comfortable,” he says.

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Plex Eat is a transparent, bell-shaped set of visors suspended over a diner’s upper body ©Christophe Gernigon Studio
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Plex Eat resembles a transparent, truncated cone ©Christophe Gernigon Studio

Merging of work and home

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a transformational movement in the world of design. Someone rightly said, “The next time we will find ourselves buying our homes, we will all remember about those times when we were forced to quarantine for weeks inside them, and we will make our choices more carefully”. While trying to cope with the various ways of social-distancing, a paradigm shift has been brought in the people’s mentalities as they realise the difference between necessary and the trivial. Now that work from home is the new normal, the furniture industry is looking for efficient and practical solutions to unify both of these diverse activities. One such example of innovative design thinking in the furniture industry today is the L20 sofa, designed by the award-winning ‘Jak Studio’. As a redesign for the classic L-shaped sofa, the L-20 is the multi-functional answer that has the ability to transform into an isolated, cocoon-like working pod. Curated for compact and contemporary spaces, the versatile sofa can also convert itself into a bed with a storage table at its side. The sound-proof L20 sofa is a glimpse into the future of work-from-home and is fitted with accessories like USB ports, charging points, reading lights and a drop-down desk. The concept for this innovative, multi-use piece is derived from studio director Jacob Low’s observations. While watching his children build fabric dens inside their rooms during the lockdown period, he realised that everything in a home has the potential for a creative uplift. In his own words, ‘It dawned on me that the limit to what we can use our homes for is infinite if we are creative. The sofa bed was a revolutionary piece of furniture when it was first designed but it has not evolved further.’ Using this notion on a living room’s central piece of furniture, he has blurred the line between personal and professional spaces.

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Iterations of the L-20 sofa ©www.dezeen.com
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Iterations of the L-20 sofa ©www.dezeen.com
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Iterations of the L-20 sofa ©www.dezeen.com

As people now hopefully look towards a post-pandemic world, they need faith and assurance about the places that they are emerging in. The pandemic has had a huge impact on our psychologies by separating the essential from the clutter and has shown us a very different style of habitation. It is now in the hands of designers to learn from the extremities of the given situation and create this faith and assurance in the minds of the users.

Author

Yamini Kathuria is an architect who has recently graduated with a masters in interior design from CEPT University, Ahmedabad. A strong believer of the notion that built-spaces directly influence how people live, connect and perform, she approaches design as a multi-layered process which involves creativity, analytical research and contextual awareness.

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