People's lives have been changed drastically around the world for the Covid-19 pandemic. We are facing travel restrictions, educational institutions closures, mass religious activities bars worldwide, and even curfew at some places. The pandemic is shaping our lifestyle and the Coronavirus is going to be part of our lives.
Human beings cannot help changing the modes of their living, and as a result, their architecture. Architects thus have to design for minimizing the spread of infection, ensuring an aseptic environment.
For social distancing purposes, millions of people are staying at home. A large number of people are being forced to maintain a home office, online classes, home fitness and so on.
Most of the people in urban areas live in a small apartment where decorating a dedicated room for a home office is quite impossible.
Transferring a small space or a corner of the living room into a home office can be a solution. The workspace must have a separate feeling from the rest of the domestic work, as much as possible.
There may be another change in design necessarily. A washbasin can be put on the porch so that one can wash hands before entering the house and keep a disinfecting space for goods coming from outside.
This, in the future design phenomena, will remind us of an old practice in rural areas of South Asia where people wash their hands and feet after coming home from a tube well or washing space kept roughly in one corner of the yard.
A breathing space, such as a balcony or terrace garden, will hopefully be a mandatory criterion for stress relief or just relaxation so that the tensions we are experiencing may not affect mental health.
Besides, plants and other natural means like sunlight and rain help improve health.
The number of beds in hospitals is not enough to meet a large number of patients. Building a hospital overnight like China is not possible for all countries if policymakers do not care for advanced planning.
Several, ICU facilities should be scaled up. Community halls, conference spaces, or hotels can be transformed into temporary hospitals. Or simply these spaces may provide accommodation for health care professionals who are not capable of going home for contamination risk.
Considering modular building or 3D printed building with advanced planning may be the demand of time.
Dealing with a huge number of patients and ensuring a normal life for all others in a city is quite challenging.
Pedestrian walks should be expanded for a couple of reasons. For social distancing purposes, many people will choose to walk rather than ride public transport to avoid contamination risk.
Bicycle-friendly roads may be another option as many people will prefer cycling after the pandemic.
Dhaka and other big cities in Bangladesh have had mixed-use development. In old Dhaka, we can see a factory, shops, and residences in a single building. The Tejgaon industrial area is surrounded by several housing areas like Niketon whose residents have hardly any relationship to industry.
It is high time to separate residential and industrial areas and introduce single-use zoning. Industries should incorporate residential facilities for workers so that they cannot create pressure on traffic. Thus our streets will be less crowded.
Maintaining social distance properly is quite difficult even while staying at home in densely populated cities like Dhaka because the space between two buildings is one or two feet, or less than that, in most cases in the city. People are bound to interact with others through window openings or verandahs.
Architects spend a lot of time contributing to the urban skyline rather than concentrating in rural areas. There is a term named urban designer, but we have never heard of a rural designer.
People prefer to live in a city because of the services it offers. People are forced to migrate from villages to cities for better education, job and health facilities. If villages are offered the same amenities, then we can hope for a solution to even out population density between urban and rural areas.
Cities need to breathe, too. Villages need proper planning of sanitation, drainage and necessary infrastructure. Architects can shift their focus on rural areas and reverse urbanization. What villages need is proper rural planning and provide the residents with a standard of living.
Many people will prefer to live in a well-ventilated house with a nice court than a 500sq ft dark apartment when s/he is bound to home and have to maintain a home office.
Besides, many people will lose their jobs in a post-pandemic city. They will have to migrate to their village home, rather than continue to pay house rent. Reviving agriculture may be a great option for them. Our young generation never wanted to build their careers as a farmer considering it a disrespectful job. But how can a country survive without agriculture?
It's not always important to put all the important offices or universities in a city. Planners can move them to the periphery, too. Our suburbs will not be a bad place to live in.
Slum residents can be moved to the periphery, of course, with an accessible income source. Our policymakers never had a good solution for slums. Now, many housemaids who mostly live in slums have become jobless and they will not get back their jobs so early. Slum-dwellers are in great danger as they have to share a small space. Architects and policymakers can work together for better housing in the periphery and create an income source for them.
Architects and planners should reconsider Ebenezer Howard's Garden City concept for a self-sufficient living area, a combination of rural and urban areas.
The place we live in has either a positive or negative effect on both physical and mental health depending on the nature of the design. Architects have to embrace the new options and go for flexible planning of areas. Everything demands modification, including our behavior, to mother nature.