The Corona Crisis and the Built Environment

By Eliza Maria George, architect (India)

 

The main impacts of the pandemic are the closing of national and interstate borders, and the inevitable  fall of the economy. Both of these factors greatly influence both design and execution of design of the built environment, and the role of the architect or planner.

PLANNING OF THE UTOPIAN CITY

The old school goal of glocalization of economic goods, which we have come so close to achieving, has left us currently in a situation where our food and other necessary resources come from across political borders, a situation which leaves us deeply dependant on other states. This is not the way forward. Every state has to be self sufficient in terms of all basic resources, in specific  food, energy, waste management and water. At a macro level, this has to be ideally incorporated in the planning stage of every city. The planning should also ensure minimum requirement for resources.

 In a utopian scenario, the zoning should ensure minimum travel distances to the work place and to the schools. The concept of neighborhoods could be considered, where everything is available and produced within a reachable radius, reachable preferably by foot or by public transport. With the onset of the ‘work-from-home’ culture, the need for elaborate offices and infrastructure will come down. Co-work spaces will become more popular for occasional physical meetings. Cities will have to be designed around pedestrian movement  and not vehicular movement. This would reduce the need for fuel, maintenance of roads and other related services. The design of the city can become more green, self sufficient and therefore eco-friendly.

If anything, the Corona Lockdown has shown us how quickly the air can become clean without vehicles on the streets, and how clear the night sky becomes without pollution. The scarcity in resources points out the need for resource self sufficiency of every state or city.

ARCHITECTURE AT THE MICRO LEVEL

With the fall of the economy, people will not be willing to spend excessively on offices, shops, homes and other small projects. They will require more from less. Architecture will have to adapt to reduce construction cost and therefore increase expenditure on businesses for the economy to grow.

 The role of the architect will get more inclined to low cost methods for construction and minimal maintenance of the built form. Passive heating and cooling will become inevitable to reduce running costs, and traditional architectural practices specific to every climate zone will have to be looked at and studied in detail.

Flexibility and multi use spaces will be required with mixed use development of new projects. The work from home culture will require more efficient homes.

All these points will have to be addressed in the design stage itself. The need for the architect to become increasingly sensitive to the economic scenario and the climatic impact will lead to more responsible designs in the future.