Living in 2020: An Era of Architectural Rediscovery
As members of an inter-related world, we have experienced the destructive effects of the current Covid-19 pandemic on a daily, and broader, collective scale. As we experience day to day life predominantly within an enclosed space of our built environment, our hopes and dreams endure for a better tomorrow.
This unique situation has provided us all with a great opportunity to reflect upon how our built environment could be greatly improved. It also now presents a fitting time for new ideas to form and take effect in the world of architecture.
Looking back, on world history, it is noticeable that innovative inventions flourished during major global crises. A great example of this is the discovery of penicillin during WW1. But what about building design and architecture? Architecture is special. Architecture translates the deep emotions of society. It reflects political regimes and economic events. Architecture can challenge the ordinary and make our world better. Certainly, revolutionary architecture born from world-wide disasters for example, post-World War social housing by Le Corbusier, and the Tuberculosis sanatorium by Alvar Aalto are excellent representations of innovative and progressive design.
Figure 1: Lewandovski, Thomas. AD Classics: Unité D’Habition, Berlin / Le Corbusier. Image, 2010. https://www.archdaily.com/88704/ad-classics-corbusierhaus-le-corbusier?ad_medium=gallery.
Figure 2: Fouillet, Fabrice. Corner - Paimio Sanatorium / Alvar Aalto. Image, 2020. https://archeyes.com/paimio-sanatorium-alvar-aalto/ / Alvar Aalto.
Architecture’s inherent attention to detail makes a difference. A pragmatic approach gives a building function, whilst creativity allows visionary intent.
It could certainly be said, that whilst many architectural choices we see in the contemporary built environment meet pandemic requirements, others need further improvement. This improvement could be completion to a higher level of quality, or perhaps an entire re-design that leads to a greater support of the occupiers emotional and physical health.– A concept which has recently become of greater concern in Australia, and around the globe.
We are currently observing how well or poorly our offices, homes and public spaces are performing during the Covid-19 pandemic environment. How positively, or negatively, they impact the wellbeing of their inhabitants. Additionally, we can ask ourselves how differently our working, living and community spaces could function and look in a post-pandemic world.
Right now, the trend of living in a small studio apartment does not seem to be attractive anymore. Compact multi-storey apartment buildings some even with unopenable windows and no outside space are exacerbating poor mental health outcomes during extreme lockdown and restrictive movement measures. In terms of office spaces, a vast majority of them represent some level of design failure. The common open-plan office environment has proven to be inappropriate for a current and post-pandemic world.
Figure 3: Barnett, Michael. Rental Properties Are Now More Expensive, And Harder To Find, Than In The Past.. Image, 2018. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-18/melbourne-renters-overtaking-home-ownership-are-laws-keeping-up/10375226?nw=0
We have an opportunity to reshape our built environment to more accurately, meet our current, and future, changing needs. As with many things in life, the process of creating suitable building environments is often complex and carries with it layers of tangible and intangible problems. Balance must be maintained.
The balance is no longer a simple triangular relationship between environment, society, and the economy. But rather a rectangular relationship between environment, society, economy, and health.
So, how can we make a difference? The solution involves a combined approach to
pure architectural design, interior design, landscape design and construction. Each of these contain a piece of their own creative solution, which when combined can create an improved built environment response for current, and future situations and conditions.
To better understand contention, the built environment rejuvenation process have been divided into a design based and construction-based approach. From a design point of view, we need to look to buildings to provide more affordable, cost effective and self-sufficient lifestyles for their inhabitants. A great example of this is solar powered systems, which are becoming more frequently embedded into architectural façades and roofs, to harness the endless energy of the sun.
In terms of interior design, the era of the open-plan house may be at an end. At present many Australians are currently working from home and, also, have children who are remote learning. Now more than ever it is critical for our housing to be able to provide workable levels of privacy. The repurposing, redesigning and redevelopment of existing housing, and space to create home offices, schooling or home gyms is never been more prevalent than now. Natural light levels and the quality of ventilation systems are under increased scrutiny,.
Both exterior and interior building materials and colours are other major factors being taken into greater consideration.
Figure 4: GCA Container Concepts, Single Story House Visualisation. Image, 2019. https://www.gcacontainerconcepts.com.a
From a construction point of view, one explored (but vastly underutilised) concept for the built environment is modular construction. Modular construction creates the opportunity for an affordable and accelerated solution, for a number of building needs.
A major benefit of modular construction is the flexibility to arrange prefabricated building blocks together, to create a variety of shapes and sizes of quality space.
Modular construction has the ability, to dynamically alter and adapt its utility and capacity, depending on the purpose and requirements of the built space. The re-purposing of shipping containers is one of the soundest modern examples of sustainable modular design.
During this year we have confronted many unexplored areas of reality and thought. Change is happening, not just within architecture, but in all spheres of life. In light of this, it is imperative, that we turn the page and embrace the challenges that lay ahead and work together to create a new architectural built environment, which is better for us all.
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8 "COVID-19 & Architecture: The Importance Of Designing For Occupant Wellness | Futurarc". Futurarc, 2020. https://www.futurarc.com/commentary/covid-19-architecture-the-importance-of-designing-for-occupant-wellness/.
6 Giacobbe, Alyssa. "How The COVID-19 Pandemic Will Change The Built Environment". Architectural Digest, 2020. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/covid-19-design.
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10 Hatcher, John. "Modular Buildings In The Time Of Covid-19". Smart Buildings Magazine, 2020. https://smartbuildingsmagazine.com/features/modular-buildings-in-the-time-of-covid-19
7 Hipwood, Tara. "Coronavirus: An Architect On How The Pandemic Could Change Our Homes Forever". The Conversation, 2020. https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-an-architect-on-how-the-pandemic-could-change-our-homes-forever-138649.
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