Silver linings: how design can exploit the virus

A “to do” list for urban planners, architects & interior designers, in response to the coronavirus.

In towns & cities:

  • reduce traffic speeds to 20mph/30kph to discourage speeding on empty streets during lockdown & to keep the air clean, the sound low & the accidents down after the “return”.

On wide streets:

  • broaden footways to improve physical distancing in the short term & encourage pedestrian flow in the long
  • then narrow roadways further with cycle lanes to support physical activity during lockdown & active commuting on the return.

In public spaces:

  • provide more shade, more seats, more WiFi
  • place more seats on broadened footways so calls can be answered & people can convert from moving to sitting down…
  • …and so “I’ll call you back” becomes “Just give me a second to sit down.”

In shops:

  • focus on customer touch, copresence, changing & comfort because everything else can be done at home
  • provide places to sit, purchase online & make calls/have meetings.

In offices:

  • create highly attractive environments (through design: character, scale & views) to compete with working from home
  • focus on creating space for informal interaction, team-based activities & online individuals because meetings have moved to the cloud & most solo, task-based activities can be done outside/elsewhere
  • question every square inch, make everywhere have at least two functions & sublet surplus space
  • provide dogs, cats & “random” distractions because that’s what we’ve become used to & it’s helping to maintain our alertness.

At home:

  • create webcam-friendly backdrops & microphone-friendly soft surfaces, not only for lockdown but for the long run because home is now an office & a broadcast studio as well as a school & gym
  • design these features in to new homes & use them as selling features because purchasers will expect them

And everywhere, provide places:

  • where people can sit alone among others
  • where they can be simultaneously together in space & somewhere else online
  • simultaneously spatial & transpatial.

Human behaviours are being provoked by the coronavirus. New & sophisticated responses are emerging that meet basic needs: to be with others, to learn, to surprise & to create.

We will not go back. We will only continue to adapt. As urban planners, architects & interior designers, we need to observe, react, experiment, assess, respond & innovate. To support life in buildings & cities.

What a challenge.

2 Comments on “Silver linings: how design can exploit the virus”

  1. Pingback: World Cities Summit: leveraging the science of cities | The power of the network

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