We’re mid-way through the year, yet it’s nothing like any of us predicted. The pandemic did not up and disappear (unfortunately), most of us are still under lockdown and if you’re not, I hope you’re following social distancing norms, wearing a mask and being careful. I think we can all agree that it’s been tough. Not only is COVID-19 a colossal threat to human life, but the financial and economic impacts have been devastating. Most construction projects have been delayed or put on hold, some cancelled. There is anxiety in the air about where we go from here. All we know for sure is that we are on the brink of enormous change. Curious to see how the industry has reacted to it? Here’s a list of 10 Architecture and Engineering trends for 2021. 

1. Social Distancing

Social Distancing has become the norm. Designers are encouraging visual connectivity between spaces while actively discouraging physical contact. 

Projects featuring contactless take-out counters, shopping spaces and isolated restaurant booths are on the rise. Inventive design solutions for recreational spaces and events with seating adhering to social distancing norms are also evident.

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Take out window _©Creator

San Francisco based firm Creator designed this unique take-out window for contactless service.

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La Cabina Booth_©blog.enscape3D.com

Viewport Studio designed a simple modular frame system to create isolated booths in a restaurant. The frame supports a water proof, flame proof fabric that prevents the spread of virus and is easy to clean.

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Social Distancing in a Market _©dezeen.com

Shift Architecture Urbanism, a Dutch based firm developed a model for public market places where people can buy produce with coming into contact with each other. 

2. Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure

Walking and Bicycling have become critical modes of transportation, now more so than ever. Investing in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure offers immense social and environmental benefits apart from being the most viable option for travel in the current scenario. They are also a significant step forward in making our cities eco-friendlier. 

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Co-emergency bike lanes in Bogata _©Carlos Felipe Pardo/Flikr

3. Pre-Fabricated & Modular Construction

Pre-fabricated construction techniques speed up the process of construction and decrease the need for extensive labour on site. Using modular units is the fastest and safest way to complete projects without compromising on labour health. From testing centres to affordable housing to office spaces, the options are limitless. 

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Chick Fil-A _©nytimes.com

A Modular Chick Fil-A Restaurant in Roswell. 

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Covid testing pod_©nytimes.com

A Modular COVID testing pod in the University of Denver.

4. Field Hospitals

Another exceedingly important use for modular construction is the building of field hospitals. With hospitals overflowing with patients, unable to meet the demand for beds and other facilities, field hospitals were a necessary solution. 

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Wuhan Hospital _©worldarchitecture.org

In February 2020, the 1,000-bed Wuhan Huoshenshan Hospital was open to patients after nine days of construction.

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Modular ICU _©CURA

In March, Italian architects Carlo Ratti and Italo Rota developed intensive care units in shipping containers and by April these units were functioning in a Turin hospital.

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ExCel converted to hospital _©dezeen.com

In the UK, the ExCel centre, a conference venue in London was transformed into the 4,000-bed NHS nightingale by architecture and engineering firm BDP.

5. Affordable Housing

Any impact on the economy is an impact on the living conditions of the people that sustain it. With companies downsizing and rising unemployment rates, the need for affordable housing is at an all-time high.

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Las Americas in Mexico_©dezeen.com

Las Americas by New York based firm So-Il is a low rise, high density affordable housing project in Leon, Mexico.

6. Carbon-Neutral Architecture

Apart from the pandemic, another paramount concern is the climate crisis. Architects and Engineers are beginning to realize that reduced carbon footprints are not enough. Carbon Neutral and Carbon Negative buildings are the way to go. Practical thinking combined with a commitment to make the best possible decisions for the environment has led to some of the most innovative design. 

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Carbon zero office _©dezeen.com

Paradise is a cross laminated timber office designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios in London. The six-storey building is designed to be carbon negative.

7. Multi-functional Homes

With work from home policies, online classes and small business start-ups, our homes have become the central point for an influx of activities. Some companies are discussing the possibilities of letting employees choose to work from home even after the pandemic. Therefore, spaces in future homes must be able to transform to suit different activities. 

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Flexible Outdoor Room _©JaK Studio

Design by JaK Studio for a multi-functional outdoor room with acoustic treatment. 

8. ech-Savy Design

The use of AI in the design process, an insurgence in BIM technologies and 3-D printing are becoming more relevant by the day. Designers are also looking into connecting people through virtual reality, especially commercial spaces. 

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3D Printed House in Netherlands _©Judith Jockel/The Guardian

9. Resurgence in Outdoor Spaces

Since disease spreads more rapidly in closed air-conditioned spaces, designers are trying to move traditionally indoor activities to the outdoors. Theatres, shopping complexes, dining experiences have all been shifted beneath an open sky. 

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Open Boulevard New York _©Emily Andrews/Rockwell Group

Apartment complexes with a focus on public spaces have also been a huge hit.

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Public Space _©UN Habitat- Global Public Space Program

10. Anti-Bacterial Fabrics and Finishes

One of the major concerns of the post-pandemic world is hygiene. With conscious design efforts, it is possible to manipulate the microbiome we are exposed to. This is already evident with architecture from the modernist period which was greatly influenced by subsequent outbreaks of cholera, tuberculosis and typhoid throughout the nineteenth century. Using anti-bacterial fabrics and finishes is a simple but efficient solution.

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Massive Brass _©archdaily.com

Massive Brass has anti-microbial properties and can be used to produce door handles and fixtures.

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Krion _©Porcelanosa Grupo

Krion is a solid material that resembles stone with anti-microbial properties. It can be used in interior finishes. 

Architects may also integrate regular disinfectant services such as automated hand sanitisers and air purifiers. Automated washbasins and sinks erected at frequent intervals in public spaces with appropriate soap dispensers might become a necessity. 

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Public Dispensors _©UN Habitat- Global Public Space Program

COVID-19 has taught us lessons we must carry, moving forward. Whether we can overcome the pandemic within this year or not is still a mystery. But we must never be caught unprepared ever again. Here’s to hoping that the year ends on a better note than where it started. 

References:

https://www.dezeen.com/2020/04/03/shift-architecture-urbanism-designs-social-distancing-into-the-food-market/

https://njspe.org/2021/04/12/engineering-trends-2021/

https://blog.enscape3d.com/architecture-trends-2021

https://www.thinkwood.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/ThinkWood_TimberTrends2021.pdf

https://architizer.com/blog/inspiration/industry/looking-ahead-construction-industry-trends/

https://www.sehinc.com/news/8-trends-architecture-and-engineering-2021#:~:text=Visualization%20technologies%20such%20as%203D,if%20they%20were%20physically%20there.

https://resources.unity.com/aec/top-2021-aec-trends

https://bsbgroup.com/blog/5-architecture-trends-for-2021

https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/8-innovative-design-responses-to-the-coronavirus

https://www.archdaily.com/961166/12-key-principles-for-an-effective-urban-response-during-covid-19

https://www.dezeen.com/2020/07/31/paradise-net-zero-carbon-office-feilden-clegg-bradley-studios/

https://www.dezeen.com/2021/04/15/so-il-builds-las-americas-affordable-housing-development-in-mexico/

https://www.dezeen.com/2020/12/18/dezeen-top-10-architecture-trends-review-2020/

https://designbuild.nridigital.com/design_build_review_apr21/changing_needs_home

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/apr/30/dutch-couple-move-into-europe-first-fully-3d-printed-house-eindhoven

https://www.archdaily.com/938260/the-importance-of-antibacterial-surfaces-in-healthcare-architecture

https://www.archdaily.com/catalog/us/products/21777/antimicrobial-materials-massive-brass-mt?ad_source=neufert&ad_medium=gallery&ad_name=close-gallery

Author

"Hasiba is an incessantly curious, student of architecture. She is perpetually fascinated by people, their stories and their experiences with built forms. Her hopes for the future are adamantly idealistic as she hopes to improve the lives of as many as possible with conscious and pragmatic design."

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