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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.