The month of November 2020 passes by reminding the human race that the pandemic we were blindsided by has now stayed in our lives for a year. As we humans have begun to adapt to the ‘new normal’ a question arises as to how prepared are we to survive in it?
As soon as the news of the pandemic broke worldwide with the WHO’s announcement, every single person sought shelter under one roof - Home. Surprisingly, the place we took for granted was the place we ran towards during these arduous times. Even more surprising is the fact that architects were the ones to decide what our homes should look, feel, and smell like; although the decisions were months or even years ago, the minute details have been impacting us for an entire year through the pandemic. Does the ‘new normal’ exist? Or is it just another hashtag that we use? Will it precede our medical infrastructure and host us for longer than we hope for? If the infectious disease prolongs while we try to get back on track with our routine, it will not only mark this period as a deadly era in the books of history but will also affect the survival of life on this planet.
In the case of our medical technologies making history by inventing a vaccine to eradicate every trace of this deadly virus, the 'new normal' will die out on its own.
Either way, this ailment has proven that architects design spaces beyond visuals. Between the 1810s and 1830s when the cholera pandemic had swept the rug from under the world's feet, design directions such as wider pavements, underground drainage systems, disciplined planning of settlements and water distribution helped the population to survive the contagious virus.
As much as we hope to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, we need to be prepared to make permanent and tough decisions that direct us to make changes in our lives. The future of the industry could lie in designs that will be considered normal in 50 years from now. While we cannot visualize the future, we definitely can paint a picture of what the future shouldn't look like. As designers, our role in society is to create designs that protect life by all means. Workspaces, community spaces, hospitality infrastructure, recreational centres, homes, etc will have to be modified from here on. Lesser contact and more distancing will be the prime aspect of designing while keeping the same connection with our folks. Futuristic designs then, may or may not, lie under the list of 'out of the box' but will lie under the list of survival aspects. Such factors of design could be made a part of the bye-laws followed by the construction industry.
Whereas, in the case of a vaccine being developed for the virus, the very hype around changes in the lifestyle of humans will die. Under such a circumstance we need to understand that Covid-19 isn't the first nor will be the last of the pandemics to deal with. Future could demand a safer environment for generations to come through an urban perspective. Secluded rescue centres that are multi-functional to serve other purposes while not in use. In the generation of building structures on Mars and the Moon, having a shelter from diseases on our planet Earth is imminent. The outbreak of this novel coronavirus has made the population look inwards, into their environment and modify it to their need and comfort. Homes are not a canvas to define our lifestyle first, but a space to induce a feeling of comfort- physically, mentally and emotionally, that we all want to return to by the end of the day.
To wrap it up, it took a minute virus for us to look at our built environment and recognise the need to modify it. Seclusion, remote contact, and minimum interfaces will define the near future of design and technology. Structures will define our routine and relationships with our loved ones. On a positive note, we have the required technology, knowledge and skillset to produce architectural wonders that will survive through the guidelines and make the survival of life easier too.