CEBU

The architecture of the ‘new normal’

HAVING been “quarantined” for almost two months now may have conjured a lot of thoughts about life after this pandemic. Apart from the use of face masks, sanitizers, disinfectants and practicing physical distancing, the so-called “new normal” in terms of architecture will demand a re-evaluation of how houses and other buildings should be designed.

Architects have joined the support crew, especially for frontliners, the past several weeks not just by supplying the much-needed equipment for medical facilities but also in sharing their ideas and expertise in designing and building make-shift isolation centers.

Adaptive

All throughout history, architecture has always kept abreast of the various changes in society may it be social, political or economic in nature.

“Architecture has always been an adaptive profession,” said Cebuano architect Daryl Balmoria-Garcia, principal of her firm Dream Architects. “We adjust and design what is called for at the time it is needed.” She envisions the house during the so-called “new normal” as a place where families could live, work and play and should be “quarantine-friendly.”

Another Asean architect, Clive Aaron Guanzon, shared the same thoughts, adding that human ingenuity and creativity are limitless as more ideas will come as people learn more about the virus’ behavior and mitigation measures through buildings and spaces they create.

For the principal architect of Pont Studio, Jonas Pacifico, the trends in architecture will follow three categories: Response, Innovation and Practice. With the need for minimized outside movement and contact, people rely on delivery services. So the response would be designated drop-off or collection for packages in buildings.

“Hygiene-focused innovations such as foot-operated switches and easy-to-clean surfaces as well as expandable health care facilities should be studied continuously,” he said. Apart from the architectural product, he also thinks his practice should also adapt in terms of operation to better serve clients.

However, another Cebuano architect, Jason Anthony Chua, thinks that it should not just be individual homes and buildings that should adapt but also city planning, especially toward answering the needs of the urban poor. “I hope the government will take a serious look into the improvement of their living conditions and provide proper housing so that they do not become the melting pot for future contagions,” he shared.

Post-Covid-19 architecture

Daryl sees the need for architects to re-imagine existing spaces to make them adapt to scenarios like quarantines.

“Our foyers can act as sanitation areas for disinfection before entering the house. Home offices and kitchen gardens will make us productive and food-sufficient with or without ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine),” the Asean architect shared. Access to gardens is also something Jason appreciates during this pandemic. He believes gardens will make a “comeback” due to its restorative effects on the users by bringing them closer to nature and grow their own produce.

Sanitation is also echoed by Clive, who thinks private residences should need a handwashing area and a place where to leave footwear and change clothing before the entrance door.

“Consideration for social distancing, minimal surface contact by occupants, improved air and light circulation as well as waste disposal need to be re-thought,” said Clive. He suggested wider hallways, floor designs that promote social distancing where needed and appropriate spacing of seating areas.

Jonas sees the design trend shifting toward not just cleanliness but also sustainability. He sees roofs and canopies of buildings as not just elements for weather protection but also for rainwater collection for future use in the vital activities done inside the building. He said that this pandemic has taught us to focus on a more practical lifestyle.

As people head toward the “new normal,” they should realize that one of the best weapons that they have against a pandemic are their houses and buildings that must be designed to custom-fit to the new challenges of the post-Covid-19 era.


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