The covid pandemic may have changed the way we look at building and city planning forever, and it may be a good thing.
How will architecture and our urban area change in the foreseeable future as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?
Covid-19 is not the first pandemic to have a dramatic impact on humanity, and it likely won’t be the last to do so. With the majority of the world's population concentrated in hyper-dense cities, it’s actually shocking that we were able to go for so long without one.
Pandemics happen, and as much as they are undesirable, they have an ability to accelerate our societies towards the inevitable future. In nature, for instance, diseases are a way to maintain ecosystems stable, limiting overpopulation and are an almost essential tool for evolution.
How did we respond to the pandemic?
There are many similarities between the course Covid-19 has run and that of the Bubonic Plague. Perhaps most obvious is the isolation and rapid creation of new health measures to help control the spread of the virus. We’ve also witnessed people moving out of densely populated urban areas to more isolated and rural places, governments struggling to maintain control of the situation, and people looking for alternative remedies and solutions to combat the issues at hand.
If we look back at the Spanish flu and smallpox, again there were new protocols, health measures and adjustments to how people used to behave in public.
Once these pandemics subsided, many people were driven to return to cities and rejoice together in freedom, secure back their lost jobs and be together with friends and family once again.
But here’s what may be different about pandemics then versus now: in the past you had to move to cities to fulfill these desires, as you there were no other options. Thanks to our advancements in technology and a new reality that forced us to work remotely for the past year, we now know that we can be just as effective – or even more effective – while working in a flexible environment.
Having people not “tied” to a city life to fulfill their careers it’s a completely new paradox in our society, and it will take years to show its full ramification. One thing is for sure, though: people are now much more free to choose to live – almost – wherever they please regardless from their profession. This is one of the main reasons why we believe city life has changed forever.
How did Covid change the way we work and live?
One trend we are witnessing since the pandemic started, is that companies are working hard towards decreasing their overhead expenses on empty office space and reselling or repurposing the vacant offices.
Since the possibilities for how to utilize and transform these spaces are virtually endless, this also represent a sort of new Renaissance for architects and designers around the world. The now vacant spaces will need to be repurposed quickly, effectively, and strategically, taking this opportunity to properly rethink the purpose of each space and building thinking about how this could change in the future.
Health care, transportation, green spaces, and multifunctional spaces for optimal work-life balance will all be at the forefront of this change. If history repeats itself, we will hopefully have learned from our mistakes and will start developing better systems and structures to deal with the problems we may face. We believe a big contribution to a better world will come from how we think about our built environment and the way we interact with it.
Functional spaces designed for humans
Covid-19 has impacted our lives in every way imaginable, including our awareness of the spaces where we spend most of our time in. Over the course of the past year, you may have recognized a impulse in the desire to reconnect with nature, and to improve your day-to-day life through a more conscious use of the spaces you spend your time in. We believe that buildings should serve us in more than just as a “shelter”, but they should rather be optimized to make our lives easier and enable us to thrive.
The huge rise in mental health issues reports this year, was heavily exacerbated by social isolation, begs us to question whether our current spaces are designed to meet even our most basic needs.
Beyond shelter, are our spaces providing us with security, comfort, and relaxation?
Reconnecting with nature through Biophilic Design
Some interior designers and architects, are shifting their primary mission towards providing the natural connection that we, as humans, are looking for.
You can see it in the rise in popularity of living walls, vertical forests, indoor garden areas, as well as in many other examples of cities reorganizing vast areas in favor of nature, connectivity, and people.
Prior to the pandemic, many design trends were focused on minimalist and open-concept living. With the disconnect that people are feeling these days, we are now seeing the next trend will be focused more on incorporating living, natural elements into our spaces - a trend known as biophilic design.
Biophilic design has been popular amongst architects and designers for several years due to its innate ability to heal, improve wellbeing, and provide a grounding connection for occupants.
Nature has been proven to provide a sense of safe haven, a feeling of calm amidst a storm, and incorporating biophilic design into urban spaces can help improve the lives of city dwellers.
Within our own private homes we’ve already begun to see this affinity for nature flourish in recent times, with the demand for houseplants increasing by almost 400% since the pandemic started.
People stuck indoors were looking to fulfill that innate desire to reconnect with nature. As this trend continues to rise in popularity, consumers are likely to shift their focus from “standard plants” to decorating and designing their spaces with living products and objects that provide a connection and deeper relationship with the natural world.
The importance of healthy indoor spaces
With 90% of our time being spent indoors before the pandemic, you may on certain days have found yourself inside at 100% of the time, which can feel quite depressing at times.
This has brought a deeper awareness towards indoor spaces, and the way the affect our health, as well as how they “make us feel”. As previously mentioned, our spaces should allow us to thrive, not just survive.
With this deepened awareness, we have come to realize many ways to enhance our lives through architecture. Whether that be air quality and the impact on our lungs, humidity or dry air playing a large role in virus proliferation, lack of daylight and how that affects our mood, or even the shades we decorate our indoor spaces with, one if not all of these things have become obvious ways to increase our quality of life by improving the health of our indoor spaces.
How will architects change after the pandemic?
Connection has been a major trend many architects have used when referring to society moving forward. Our built environments will have to support people connecting with one another, but also become a place for people to be reflective, connect with themselves and other positive aspects of life.
Flexibility, as in multipurpose, simplicity, and modularity.
Spaces will need to accommodate more than one function, the living room as both a place for family to gather and a homework corner, the kitchen as a place to cook and take a business call or the basement as a recreation space for both young children and adults.
Moving forward, the designers of indoor spaces will need to work much harder. For example, a home now needs to provide more than comfort and security. It will also be measured in its ability to help family and individual adapt to the quick and ever changing times.
And finally, Restorative. Our spaces need to recharge and enhance us when we reconnect with them. The outside world is a frenetic place and as we move more and more towards becoming an almost-exclusively indoor species we need our buildings to advance in the way they serve us.
With 90% of our time being spent indoors, and the majority of our population projected to live in urban centers in the years to come, it has become more apparent than ever, that our built environment must support our bodies and minds the same we feel restored when we take that trip to the mountains, or take a swim in the sea. The same way, nature restores us.
A conclusive note
As we rethink our spaces and lives after the pandemic, we must learn from our past mistakes and improve the way we connect with the environment around us.
Incorporating natural systems and elements in traditionally ascetic spaces can have a strong positive effect on our health and psychological wellbeing, while also being more sustainable in the long run.
Being able to adapt, change, and connect are essential attributes designers and architects will have to take more into consideration when developing rooms, buildings, and cities in the years to come.