How will Coronavirus Shape Architecture?
The time we spend at home has increased tremendously during the coronavirus pandemic. Architects and urban planners expect long-term changes from the design of rooms and residential areas to more energy efficiency.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the home has functioned as a workplace, school, sports studio, and restaurant at the same time. During the lockdowns, many people thought about the design of their four walls. Because the demands have shifted, the functionality was often no longer available. Tara Hipwood, architect and lecturer at Northumbria University in Newcastle, Northern England, thinks it likely that open floor plans, for example, will soon be a thing of the past. Many families would have been in crisis recognized how important personal areas and privacy are, she reports. Merging the kitchen, dining room, living room, and work area did not turn out to be ideal. The original architectural idea was ultimately the phased use of such a multifunctional space. So intended for an everyday life in which different family members are there at different times and only come together for dinner in the evening.
Hipwood, who conducts research in housing construction and sustainability, predicts another turnaround after the coronavirus era when it comes to heating comfort. Because the number of home office workplaces will presumably increase, she assumes that more and more people will deal more intensively with energy-efficient solutions. For the same reason, aspects such as air quality and noise pollution come into focus. "This development could lead homeowners to invest in triple glazing, specially coated windows, better thermal insulation, and stronger seals, which in turn would lead to a reduction in CO 2 emissions," she says.
Hipwood also emphasizes that separate learning areas for schoolchildren would also have had a positive effect on the level of education and refers to the results of a study by the group of authors around Helen Garrett, which examined the influence of the living environment on health. In Hipwood's eyes, many parents' concern about a good education could shift away from choosing the best possible school to create an optimal learning environment in their own home.
Promote healthier lifestyles
This line of thinking attaches importance to the living environment design with a focus on health and well-being. More and more people prefer natural light and direct access to nature, says Hipwood. "That could lead to less use of electric light and greater demand for biologically diverse gardens." She also sees self-sufficiency being exacerbated by the food shortage caused by hamster purchases at the beginning of the crisis and estimates that this movement will continue after the pandemic stops. Growing fruit and vegetables yourself could, in turn, lead to increasing interest in solar systems and renewable energies. It paints a picture of a new lifestyle that combines home office with a healthier life and more self-sufficient care. The lockdown experiences will »undoubtedly have a lasting effect. And make us rethink the priorities in a post-pandemic life, along with the role our home will play in the future."
You also have to reorient yourself when building houses, as a study by University College London (UCL) from October 2020 shows against the coronavirus crisis background. The central finding for Professor Matthew Carmona and his team of authors is that there are critical design deficits in new buildings and newly developed districts. The least satisfied during the lockdown were residents of houses or areas built between 2010 and 2020. In contrast, residents from residential areas that existed before 1919 were most satisfied with their living environment and the community. So how must residential buildings be designed in the future so that they promote happier and healthier lifestyles? Most important to the 2500 households in the UCL survey was access to a private outdoor space such as a garden, terrace, or balcony. Carmona's conclusion that people are in crisis rated better if their home has as many separate rooms as possible and offers sufficient fresh air, daylight, and noise protection agrees with Hipwood's observations. "The greatest guarantee of satisfaction during lockdown was a home that was just a five-minute walk from a park or large green space," said Carmona. If, on the other hand, it was more than 10 minutes, satisfaction decreased rapidly. Another important factor was shops in the immediate vicinity. If the participants in the study needed more than 10 minutes to reach it, their well-being decreased. The scientist, therefore, calls for lessons to be learned from the stress tests on our home environment. For example, to promote the expansion of public squares, sidewalks, and bicycle paths as well as a good infrastructure with better access to local facilities.
The healing look into the green
Against this background, one should not overlook children's needs in urban planning, according to Jenny Wood from the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, and Equal Opportunities at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. The priorities are clear: being able to play safely in the immediate vicinity, do sports, ride a bike and meet friends. Colorful houses and access to nature through animal farms, for example, are central issues. Wood points out that the conflict between older and younger people regarding playground use is often underestimated. Some want to play, others "hang out." The children themselves consider separate areas that are not directly adjacent to each other to be useful.
Young people consider nature experiences in the city to be relevant when it comes to their psychological balance. It often does not matter whether they perceive nature from inside or outside, says Jo Birch from the Institute for Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield. That could be squirrels in front of the window, the sunset over a parking garage, a square with trees, or an open space with a great view. According to Birch's studies, these experiences generate feelings of calm, relaxation, and inner peace. Nature represents a place of retreat in the form of a physical demarcation from the city while strengthening mental health and general well-being. Because nature does not judge, many young people feel accepted and "connected to something bigger," she reports.
The so-called dementia design representatives would undoubtedly agree that a living space's design can compensate for problems. It is a non-medically motivated approach that aims to create an environment for those affected that reduces some of the typical symptoms of illness, such as restlessness, aggression, or disorientation, as far as possible. In this way, the sick should feel more independent and self-confident, as stated by the responsible architect Lesley Palmer from the Dementia Services Development Center at the University of Stirling. Green spaces, means of transport, good air quality, and easily accessible areas could help in the fight against dementia. According to Palmer, 50 million people worldwide are currently affected by the disease and forecasts assume that this number will double over the next 20 years.
Less office space through the home office?
For Professor Dr. Jörg H. Gleiter from the TU Berlin, whose area of expertise is the architectural theory, "the world of work and part of the architecture will change," after the coronavirus crisis. The need for office space and space will decrease sharply when companies implement their home office plans. Because this would reduce the space required in cities, these areas could then be available for living. On the other hand, he sees no signs that forms of living are changing. "With one exception: that the need for living space will tend to increase since families need workspaces that are usually lacking at the moment." He sees greater changes due to the lockdown experience in the leisure behavior of people who travel instead of further to undertake, to appreciate their immediate surroundings. "Coronavirus and longer-term environmental developments could go hand in hand positively. There is great potential here," he emphasizes. He thinks the car to the home is a status symbol. But basically, the questions about the coronavirus effects on architecture could only be discussed "in connection with the much more urgent questions of climate, energy efficiency, environmental protection, and land consumption," he emphasizes.