On the precipice of a ‘second wave’, as we come to terms with tiered local lockdowns and more restrictions, there’s no doubt that Covid-19 has the world in the palm of its hands. There are very few things in our lives that the virus has not already affected, our health being just one.
How we socialise, how we carry out our work and business, how we care for our families, how we spend our downtime, as well as practically everything else, the virus has changed things…changed them forever, in some cases.
Changes during 2020
Covid has affected our environments and infrastructure. When you’re at the supermarket, there are now oneway systems and screens shielding the cashier from you (and vice versa). There’s much less seating in restaurants, bars and other venues, to allow for space between patrons. The amount of, and the space given to, takeaways and drive thrus is increasing, as this is how eateries are competing with each other to operate and turn a profit during the pandemic.
Classrooms in schools are spreading out into temporary or mobile units, so that there are no longer large numbers of children in any one space at any time. Those working in offices are making similar decisions about their layouts, or they’re limiting the number of employees on site at any one time, with the rest working from home.
In most public toilets and within the facilities of many venues, urinals are taped off, as their use doesn’t encourage social distancing. Some toilet cubicles may also be sealed off (though it’s harder to figure out why, when they’re already individual entities; I presume this is so the cleaning of the loos in use can be better managed and more frequent).
The future of events
The event industry—if, indeed, their event is allowed to even go ahead at the moment—has had to make huge adaptations. They won’t enjoy a ‘full house’ for quite a while, as entire rows of seating have to be taped off during the pandemic to allow patrons to socially distance. The only way to capture a large audience with any offline production at the moment is to incorporate two-tiered attendance; livestreaming the event can allow people at home to watch the show at the same time as those who are physically present. People watching on screen can still pay an entrance fee, though this should be cheaper than those enjoying the privilege of watching it in real time, first-hand. The revenue from physical attendees only, in a world living alongside Covid, probably won’t even cover the costs associated with putting the production on.
New rules and regulations
Signage has become important, so that we can all follow the latest rules and regulations when leaving our homes. If we’re sitting inside a restaurant to eat (and at other venues), we must scan the QR code that supports the Track and Trace initiative. We have to adhere to floor signs that tell us where we must enter and exit (this is unlikely to be through the same door if the premises are large enough to accommodate a one-way flow).
Sanitisation stations are everywhere. Tables housing bottles of sanitiser or dedicated dispensers at various points (particularly on entry) in venues, shops and public places are a common sight. Whilst these may not add to the aesthetics of a town or village, they provide a necessary function.
If it’s not Covid, it will be something else…
That’s how our environment has changed during 2020, but as we head into the winter season with no firmer grasp on the virus as we had at the outset, forecasts that we will be living with Covid-19 for years to come are beginning to hold weight.
Even if Covid-19 is not part of our future, some experts believe that it will not be the only pandemic and/or epidemic that we will live through. It’s a scary thought, but perhaps a very real one: the hygiene practices we’re currently demonstrating, as well as social distancing, may feature throughout the rest of our lifetimes.
The future architecture of our homes
The future of architectural design and public infrastructure looks likely to be affected by Covid, too. Public buildings, such as community centres and roomy gyms, will no longer be required if people are unable to congregate in large crowds; a number of intimate, small spaces will be more in demand within the same space, perhaps, than just one huge room.
House design over the last couple of generations has leaned more towards maximising space for profit. In some cities, people literally live on top of each other in high rise apartment buildings, or individual houses that are thin and tall with three or four storeys.
What we may see in the future, as a result of the pandemic, is a return to valuing our outdoor space. Demand for gardens will skyrocket and extra bedrooms will not be as desirable as the amount of land we can call ours—after all, if we’re in lockdown, we can’t have people stay over anyway.
Outdoor ‘rooms’ may be as much a part of our house/ living design than the indoor variety.
Self-sufficiency may become a feature of architecture very soon, and hygiene will be at the forefront of designers’ minds. Anything that reduces contamination and stops the spread of a virus could become a design feature; in years to come, for example, we’ll probably have toilets in our homes like the Japanese have, which self-sanitise after every flush.
On a similar note, new houses will probably feature home offices/studies, as many companies have embraced homeworking as a way of continuing operations during lockdown. We’ll have specific space to exercise at home or in our gardens, as gyms and communal exercising may become more difficult should another pandemic raise its head.
Digital infrastructure will become more and more important as we live more of our lives online than ever before. 5G is already being rolled out in many areas and further upgrades may require different equipment, cabling and frameworks.
The new normal is already here…
Though we may have come to hate the words ‘new normal’, that is exactly what the future holds. There’s no way that everything can return to how it was after everything we’ve learned during 2020 concerning the pandemic. Some, if not all, of the adaptations and practices above will become second nature a few years from now. It’s not a question of whether they make our daily lives better or worse, it’s just the way things will be.
What structural, architectural or design changes do you foresee in the future? Tweet us at @intheknowemag
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