VARIOUS issues greet us each day. Some of these have sounded stale in news headlines but continue to hound us as we go through our daily routine. Many of these problems demand solutions from specific sectors and professions. From the long-running pandemic to the everyday travails against heavy road traffic, there are aspects about them that need some creative inputs from architects.
In celebration of National Architecture Week (Dec. 6 to 12), let us look into how architecture could address some of society’s most pressing issues.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which is undoubtedly the main headliner for 2020, is not just about a health issue. As stay-at-home protocols and the need for proper isolation for the sick emerged, the need for good architecture was also put into the spotlight. The design for the typical residence for example has been revisited and attention has been revived on the importance of good and efficient layout of rooms, provision of areas for disinfection, work-from-home areas and even quarantine in the house as well as good natural ventilation. Even the World Health Organization and many infectious disease specialists acknowledged the vital role of efficient natural air circulation in the prevention of virus spread especially indoors.
Through careful planning that considers user activities, building laws, site topography, climate, among others, a “new normal” building design can be achieved with an architect at the helm.
Architects were trained to consider a myriad of factors that influence the design of buildings and their functionality for users. Climate is one of them. With the recent typhoons that battered many areas of the country, this should remind us that buildings should be designed with sensitivity to severe weather and should be able to adapt to them.
Architects study sun paths and where prevailing winds usually come from, orient buildings so they could maximize benefits of natural elements and incorporate design features that keep roofs and other building parts more intact during typhoons. They are also aware of environmental laws that require easements from natural water bodies and construction restrictions in vulnerable locations, which they make sure their building designs would comply with.
There have also been issues about historical buildings being unjustly sacrificed for new developments, damaged irreversibly by mismanaged reconstruction and repairs and new buildings “photobombing” heritage structures. Through their awareness of history and how they should be preserved without compromising progress and development, architects think of ways to make “old” buildings still significant in the present through adaptive-reuse strategies and urban design approaches that could enhance the economic activities of a community through heritage appreciation and tourism.
Architects may not be able to fully design roads and bridges (we have the engineers to do that) but their awareness of important factors in planning prompts them to consider the surrounding traffic flows of their project sites. In designing commercial establishments for instance, they study the different traffic volumes of nearby streets and orient the building and other spaces so they do not just maximize access to the building but provide necessary setbacks from the streets and designation of appropriate loading and unloading bays for public transportation.
Through time, many have stereotyped architects as mere designers of houses and nothing more. But think about it, in many aspects of our daily lives, there is some semblance of comfort in going through certain routines and activities made more efficient, thanks to good architecture.