Current DateSeptember 19, 2021

Could the Covid-19 pandemic influence architecture and urban planning

The Covid-19 pandemic is impacting different parts of our society. However, it could have an impact on the conception and design of our buildings and the layout of our cities in the near future.

The Finnish example of the last century

The Paimio Sanatorium was a facility dedicated to the treatment of tuberculosis and located in south-west Finland. Developed by architect and designer Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto in 1933, the building was rigidly geometric and made of long walls of expansive windows that enveloped its facade. The building had light-colored rooms and a large roof terrace. These characteristics belong to the modernist architecture of the 1920s, which notably emerged in France with Le Corbusier.

However, as The New Yorker explains in an article dated June 17, 2020, the choice of materials and design was intended to be useful. The objective? Make the building work like a medical instrument. The fact is that tuberculosis was one of the most common health problems in the early 1900s. Thus, each element of the Paimio Sanatorium was designed to promote healing of the disease.

The design of the rooms was thus carried out according to the main position of the patients: lying on their bed. The ceiling sported a color reminiscent of silence, the light sources were outside the patient’s field of vision while the heating was directed towards his feet. Since the sun has been shown to be effective in killing tuberculosis bacteria, architecture has been instrumental in treatment, not just in the bedrooms.

Living places, workplaces

Asked by the American magazine, the architect Koray Duman thinks that the Covid-19 will disrupt the conception and the design of the future buildings. The interested party evokes a modular environment and removable furniture, especially at the walls. The expert believes that containment will have a lasting effect on our subconscious. For example, when it comes to choosing a new place to live, the idea that one can be confined there for weeks will surely come into play.

In addition to our living spaces, some workplaces such as offices could see their architecture turned upside down. For Jeroen Lokerse, one of the directors of the property developer Cushman & Wakefield (Netherlands), the key lies in “visualization”. In its own premises, the promoter is currently experimenting with a new concept. These are workspaces in circles 1.5 meters in diameter. We can also cite the presence of disposable supplies allowing anyone to take possession of the station without risking contamination.

A new type of city planning

While general densification was the engine of city development, the trend could be reversed somewhat. For example, some schools are thinking of teaching outside and some New York routes have become entirely pedestrianized to relieve congestion in the parks. In Vilnius (Lithuania), the municipality has even allowed bars and restaurants to set up in closed streets. The objective? Allow their tables to be at a good distance from each other.

We are talking about a concept called “tactical town planning”, going against densification and homogenization. This concept is based on the field approaches and the experiences of the inhabitants. So, perhaps soon, we may witness a kind of “renaissance” of architecture at the local level.