Life after Covid seems like a Utopian dream – as some countries continue to battle the pandemic, there’s no denying that there will be a major overhaul in the way we live, or at least, used to live.
Routines and lifestyles have changed, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be improved or optimised. Let’s take a look at what the future of architecture and design will bring into our lives after the pandemic.
LIVING SAFELY AND SANELY
With the world getting used to work-from-home measures, quality of life becomes more important than ever. And at the same time, more attention must be paid to features like hygiene, safety and sustainability. For families forced to stay home together, personal space instantly becomes non-existent, which in the long run, leads to poor mental and emotional health.
New York-based design firm SO-IL recognises the importance of privacy at times like these. During the lockdown, its founders, Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu, found themselves at home with their two young daughters. While Idenburg commented they were lucky to have an open-plan living space and thick bedroom doors that helped keep each other’s learning and working routines running smoothly, he noted that this might not be the case for many in the city.
In an interview with The New Yorker, Idenburg said, “The loft, the New York City typology, seems to be not the romantic thing at the moment. Everyone’s on Zoom calls.” With everyone simultaneously attending online school sessions or board meetings, lack of space can result in an unwelcome cacophony.
This has changed SO-IL’s approach to the design of a new Brooklyn residential project – instead of flowing together as preferred in conventional layouts, the kitchen, dining room and living room are now separable. The bedrooms, which double as workspaces, have been spaced apart for better acoustic buffering, and include more square footage for desks.
Varied outdoor options and additional exterior space also help to give the inhabitants more breathing room, should they have to be confined to their homes.
As the world opens up and travellers begin to leave their houses, hotels are also looking into ways they can ensure a safer experience for guests.
UK architecture studio The Manser Practice predicts that facilities like gyms, conference rooms and front desks might not be as important anymore. On the other hand, rooms with extra space and self-contained facilities, together with app-controlled service features, can put guests at ease by minimising contact with hotel staff.
To solve the issue of sharing confined lift spaces with strangers, Jonathan Manser, CEO of The Manser Practice, suggests bringing back the paternoster.
Popular in the early 20th century, the paternoster is a type of elevator with smaller open compartments to fit one or two people. Paternosters generally do not have doors or buttons, and move continuously at slower speeds so that people can just hop on or off as they like.
ENSURING HAPPY, HEALTHY LEARNING
In many countries, physical classes at schools were suspended during the pandemic, leading to online-based learning for students. However, according to UNICEF, over 1 billion children are at risk of falling behind due to school closures.
Many of the world’s children, especially those in poorer households, do not have access to the internet or gadgets like computers, tablets or smartphones that allow them to continue learning from home. In the long run, closing schools for long periods of time is detrimental to children’s education, not just academically, but also in terms of social skills.
UK firm Curl la Tourelle Head, which has an extensive portfolio in school design, came up with the idea of outdoor tents after seeing them being used by some nurseries in Denmark. Making use of tents and marquees usually set up at festivals and events, these pop-up spaces can be used for outdoor schooling, providing ample space for physical distancing while making sure the air stays well-ventilated.
Since its launch in May 2020, Curl la Tourelle Head has delivered these pop-up tents to multiple schools across the UK, allowing school children to go back to school safely.
Design collective Soup International reimagines the playground as a functional learning space based on the theme of “post-pandemic schooling” for interior design publication, Frame Magazine. According to the design manifesto, while children must be kept safe from the ongoing pandemic, they must not miss out on their education, friendships and playtime.
Taking inspiration from the works of Aldo Van Ayck’s Garden Pavilion sculpture and Charles Forberg’s Cypress Hills playground, the team designed PlayDaze, an open-top labyrinth of corridors, tunnels, bridges and classrooms. Here, children can explore within their own “bubbles”, or interact with friends in other bubbles via contactless play.
The playground leads to classrooms on each side of the structure, where students enter through the window via steps or slides. Without any sharp corners, the curved walls of the individual “bubbles” are easy to clean and can be utilised for play and discovery. To improve the functionality of PlayDaze, the designers also researched the importance of sensory elements and incorporated them into the playground.
IMPROVING PUBLIC TRANSPORT
One of the most highly-discussed topics amidst the pandemic is how people can continue to utilize public transport safely without getting too close for comfort.
Hong Kong-based Italian designer Andrea Ponti offers a modern take on the city’s iconic tram: enter the Island, an electric, driverless tram which makes things easy for passengers to stay at a safe distance from each other.
The interior comprises several “islands”, where seats are arranged in a radial pattern, facing outwards to avoid breathing in the direction of other travellers. Along the perimeter of the tram are bar-like wooden counters with handrails, where standing passengers can enjoy the passing views while looking out the wraparound glass windows.
The open-concept tram stops are also designed for better ventilation and crowd control. Instead of dividing and separating, Ponti says that we should start rethinking public spaces effectively, integrating this new way of life into our everyday routines.
Similarly, the experience of flying to your destination might get a facelift in the not-too-distant future. The design and brand experience experts at PriestmanGoode have visualised a new concept for air travel. Called “Pure Skies”, the agency reassures passengers by taking hygiene to a whole new level.
Airplane seats of the future will no longer have pockets, and are printed with colour-changing ink that informs passengers about the status of sanitisation. Using UVC- or heat-reactive pigments, these inks will show up with a safety message when the aircraft has been freshly-sanitised.
The interior lighting also carries elements of colour psychology help to create a reassuring cocoon of safety – cyan or purple signifies the cleaning process, while warm shades of yellow or peach are used in-flight for a calming effect.
Business class seats will be rebranded as “rooms”, with full-height curtains made with antimicrobial materials. The seats will also have minimal split lines and hems, thereby minimising the possibility for dirt and germs to get trapped inside.
Economy seats, now called “zones”, have smaller sections that alleviate the anxiety of travelling within one huge cabin.
Protective screens on top of the seats help to separate passengers, and the seat-back trays will be replaced with sanitised clip-on trays, provided during meal service.
IMAGINING LIFE IN THE FUTURE
Architectural firm O2 Design Atelier imagines a new way of vertical living – a self-sufficient tower city that extends upwards instead of across. Called the “City of Tomorrow”, O2 Design Atelier’s rendition of future living involves a network of elevated towers with hybrid spaces (accessible via individual flying capsules), which combines work, life and mobility into one massive structure.
At the lower core of the tower is a quarantine centre, which acts as a checkpoint before one enters or exits the city. To access the tower, each person is assigned an individual, clean energy-powered capsule, which takes them to their desired location. From there, they can remain within the capsule and interact through the glass panel, or disembark and interact physically with others.
By practicing a “zero waste” concept (no roads, no deforestation, no unnecessary construction), the building, perched atop a forest in the highlands, enables residents to balance between life in isolation during future pandemics with freedom of movement and interaction, setting Mother Nature free from the iron grip of construction-related damage.
Here, flora and fauna are allowed to take back their rightful ownership of the land that the City of Tomorrow stands on. While we’ve certainly got a long way to go, there is no harm in planning for the future.
Cover Credit: Denys Nevozhai / Unsplash
Writer | Michelle Tan
Lover of all things bizarre, Michelle has a soft spot for dinosaurs, animal videos and a strong G&T. Her lifelong dream is to become an urban hermit.