How will architecture and our urban centres change in the foreseeable future as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic? The question is loaded, but for a reason. Covid-19 is not the first pandemic to sweep across the globe and it likely won’t be the last. With the majority of the world's population now living in dense cities and close quarters, it’s shocking that we were able to go for so long without one. Think back to how nonchalant, reckless or however you’d like to describe your public behaviour prior to 2020. Pandemics happen, and as much as they are undesirable, they have an ability to accelerate our societies towards the inevitable future.
History Repeating Itself
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 control the virus. We’ve also witnessed people moving out of densely populated urban areas to greener pastures, the government being challenged, and people looking for alternative/natural remedies and solutions to combat the issues at hand. Look at the Spanish flu and smallpox, again there were new protocols, health measures and adjustments to public behaviour.
Once these pandemics subsided, many people were driven to return to cities and rejoice together in freedom, secure their jobs and be together with friends and family once again. But what’s different about then versus now, is that you had to move to cities to fulfill these desires. Our advancements in technology and this new reality that forced us to work remotely for the past year have now proven that we can be just as effective and oftentimes more effective working in a flexible environment. Remote or at the office, but the choice is yours. It’s for this reason that we believe city life has changed forever.
How Will This Change The Way We Work And Live?
One trend we are already witnessing is companies working towards decreasing their overhead expenses on empty office space and using these vacant offices for other purposes. There are numerous possibilities for how to utilize and transform these spaces, placing the architects and designers at a pivotal moment. The spaces that are now vacant will need to be repurposed and we must take the opportunity to properly plan for the future. Health care, transportation, green spaces, and multifunctional spaces for optimal work-life balance will all be at the forefront of change. If history repeats itself, we will hopefully have learned from our mistakes and developed better systems and structures to deal with the problems we face. We believe a big contribution to a better world will be how we think about our built environment and the way we interact with it.
Spaces that Serve and Optimize
Covid-19 has impacted our lives in every way imaginable, including our awareness of the spaces we spend most of our time in. Over the course of the past year, you may have recognized a desire to reconnect with nature and the natural world and to improve your day-to-day life through a more conscious design of the spaces you spend your time in. We believe buildings should serve us in more than the traditional form of shelter, they should be optimized to make our lives easier and allow us to thrive.
The rise in mental health issues this year, which was heavily aggravated by social isolation and other various losses incurred by the pandemic, begs us to question whether our current spaces are designed to meet even our most basic needs. Beyond shelter, is your space providing you with security and comfort?
Creating Connection Through Biophilic Design
At Respira, our primary mission is to provide the natural connection that we as humans are looking for. You can see it in our commercial living walls as well as our first consumer facing product, the Respira smart garden. These are not one and done installations, these are living, breathing exhibits that you can form a relationship with and benefit from long-term.
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 believe the next trend will be focused on incorporating more living, natural elements into our spaces - a trend known as biophilic design.
Biophilic design has been popular amongst architects and designers for many years due to its innate ability to heal, improve wellbeing, and provide a grounding connection for occupants. Nature can provide a safe haven, a feeling of calm amidst a storm, and incorporating biophilic design into urban spaces can help regain the trust of city dwellers nervous of venturing into crowded spaces.
Within our own homes we’ve already begun to see this affinity for nature flourish with the demand for houseplants increasing by almost 400% since the pandemic started. People stuck indoors were looking to fulfill that innate desire to connect with nature. As the trend continues to rise in popularity, consumers are likely to shift their focus to decorating and designing their spaces with living products and objects that provide a connection and deeper relationship.
A Greater Awareness For Healthy Indoor Environments
With 90% of our time being spent indoors before the pandemic, you may on certain days have found yourself inside 100% of the time. This has brought a deep awareness to the health of indoor spaces and 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 respiratory system, humidity or dry air playing a large role in not only comfort but virus transfer, lack of daylight and how that affects our mood, a sense of connectedness throughout a room 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 Architecture Change After The Pandemic?
Connection has been a trend many have used when referring to society and moving forward, our built environment will support people connecting with one another but also a place for people to be reflective, connect with themselves and other lively aspects of the build. Flexible, as in multipurpose, agile and modular. Spaces will need to accommodate more than one function, the living room as both a place for family to gather and a homework nook, 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 design of 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 crazy place and as we move towards becoming an indoor species we need our buildings to advance in the way they serve us. With 90% of our time being spent indoors, and majority of our population projected to live in urban centres it has become more apparent than ever, that our built environment must restore our bodies and minds the same we feel restored when we take that trip to the mountains, forest bathe or swim in a body of water. The same way, nature restores us.