Reimagining Urban Planning And Architecture Amid COVID-19 Protocols

Restructuring office spaces along with office furniture, with a social distancing rule of six feet, will be a real challenge for architects

The COVID-19 has fundamentally altered our way of life in cities. The restrictions on mobility and overall health, hygiene and safety concerns have prompted the world to gear up for a new normal that will redefine the way we design, build, and live in these cities. People are spending most of the time indoors while working from home that will invariably lead to adapting architecture to the new normal.

As people struggle to get a breath of fresh air and maintain their good health, cycling activity, fitness regime and walking zones have gained new currency. One can imagine the futuristic cities with planned integration of walking plazas and pedestrian zones. Public spaces have found a new meaning amid the lockdown. Planned development of public spaces, such as entertainment spaces, parks, community centers, while adhering to social distancing norms, is likely to come into prominence.

The COVID-19 has also underscored the significance of living in harmony with nature. Biophilic design, a concept that entwines sustainability with planned urban development, will gain currency. This concept will fuel the demand for sustainable buildings equipped with green features such as rainwater harvesting, solar energy provisions, among others. This will also be manifested with the use of indoor plants in living rooms, provision of open-air spaces such as the patio, balcony decks and kitchen gardens.

With most people working from home, the large standalone offices in central business districts are likely to give way. It will also lead to the emergence of flexible building design with a series of adjustable walls and screens to segregate an open space office into various dedicated spaces. It will also give a fillip to modular construction wherein buildings are assembled with the help of prefabricated modules. This technique is flexible, fast and incurs less wastage than conventional modules. Another trend that will gain currency is adaptive reuse that has emerged as a viable solution to address the space constraint in cities. A beginning has already been made in this regard with railway coaches and community halls remodeled into COVID care centers in India and worldwide.

Restructuring office spaces along with office furniture, with a social distancing rule of six feet, will be a real challenge for architects. Over the years, the size of office desks had reduced from 6 feet to less than 4 feet. However, COVID-19 will lead to a reversal of this trend amid concerns of transmission risk of the disease. Whether this will be a permanent trend remains to be seen.

Until the pre-COVID-19 era, markings were characteristic of roads. They will now assume a pervasive role and will be almost everywhere- from metro coaches, restaurants, offices, buses, and many more. Markings in offices to adhere to social distancing norms will be the norm. Visual instruction signage in offices, elevators, and high-frequency spaces will also be a common sight. The one-way flow of employees in office spaces will be an enabler to facilitate adherence to social distancing to reduce the contagion of the disease.

The COVID-19 has invariably given a fillip to contactless technology that has percolated into office spaces as well. Besides, infrared thermometers, contactless pathways wherein employees will not need to touch railings, or physical surfaces will be the new order along with office doors equipped with motion sensors and facial recognition technology. The proliferation of technology will redefine office spaces like never before. Wider corridors and doorways, partitions between departments are among some other trends that will gain prominence. In the domain of building construction, Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology to enhance safety and security besides sustainability will be in vogue.

COVID-19 is an inflection point for the urbanization process that will fundamentally redefine the way of life in cities.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house