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Way ahead for architecture

Breakout of COVID-19 which was followed by countrywide lockdown has given rise to several issues which have become the subject of debate and public discussion. Whether properly planned city would have avoided the spread of Coronavirus? Whether post-lockdown design of cities and buildings would be different from what they used to be?

Noted industrialist Ratan Tata who always wanted to be an architect, recently said in a webinar, builders and architects have built vertical slums which have neither adequate fresh air, hygiene or open space. “The pandemic has underlined the problem that slums create for everyone due to the absence of enough fresh air, enough open space and the issues of being uprooted from your work,” Tata said. Meanwhile, it’s true that what has been done in the past cannot be changed now and therefore, its better to concentrate on future. Architects in general are of the opinion that the pandemic will have an impact on the way we design our structures in the future. “From an interior designer’s perspective, it means more focus on planning and layouts of all kinds of spaces – commercial, residential or hospitality,” says Shami Goregaoker, Design Director, GA design.

COVID & lockdown to influence design

According to Dr. Ramesh, Archinova Designs Pvt. Ltd., Hyderabad “Now due to the on going pandemic of COVID -19 has evolved us and changed our perspective of the frictionless work place because many of the solutions we have put in place so far has been reliant on “touch technology”  kiosks that require navigation via touch, booking screens, bio metrics, finger print scans all these convenience looks like health risk in current situation across all countries.” In the opinion of Ar. Manish Dikshit, Aum Architects “Design is going to get sensitive now; it always was but it wasn’t primary, if I may so. The new criteria is going to be to design for isolation – a self sufficient way of life.”

Some architects are influenced by the conditions that prevailed during the lockdown when people were not allowed to move out of the house. To face such a situation, for example, New York based ODA Architecture is designing a tower in Manhattan which attempts to bring outdoors inside! Their latest project, The 44th Street tower combines urban living in the sky with the idea of a suburban backyard. Stretching the program vertically, 16 foot high gaps are created between every two apartments forming sculptural gardens with direct access from every apartment. Every 2,800-sq.ft apartment in the upper portion of the building, is one floor and is complimented by a 1,400-sq.ft private garden. The gardens’ 16-ft height allow direct sunlight to permeate the voids, while the central core and perimeter design dramatically reduce the wind load and provides 360 degree views of the city.

Indoor microbial ecosystems to the fore

According to University of Oregon’s Biology and the Built Environment Center (BioBE), architects can use many design features to shape and modify microbial communities within homes and office buildings. They include space configuration and occupant density; interior material selection; window location, size, and glass type; electric lighting spectrum and intensity; and air movement and ventilation strategies. Building managers also play a role. They can adjust the amount of outside air that is admitted and the frequency at which it is exchanged with indoor air. Other levers include humidification and dehumidification, and of-course, cleaning products and practices.

University’s recent research suggests that many natural systems, such as daylight and natural ventilation, don’t just reduce energy consumption and support human health—they also support more diverse indoor microbial ecosystems and reduce the abundance of potential pathogens. Similarly, natural unfinished wood surfaces have been shown to reduce the abundance of some viruses more quickly than other common indoor surfaces, such as stainless steel or plastic.

But in India, there are certain factors which are beyond the control of architects, say for example, population growth. Due to ever increasing population, so many people live in so small an area in our cities where the concept of social distancing will be impossible to put into practice and will remain only on paper. Urbanisation is taking place at much faster pace than ever before and land availability in the cities remaining the same, density of population will only move upwards carrying wit it all related hazards. Therefore, before the architects take any concrete measures on the ground, onus is on the government to tackle the issue of fast paced urbanisation which is also partly induced by its policies. Recent reverse migration has shown that people won’t move to cities if they are provided with enough opportunities in the villages and home towns. So, the government has a solution in hand, but what is needed is the will power to implement it.

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