Only 18 months ago, everyone around the globe had their life upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost immediately, architects and designers began to speculate on how they could design for a better world that would be flexible, functional, and healthy. While the pandemic is far from over, with many scientific advancements and public health policies still needed to truly allow us to live out our “new normal”, perhaps its time to reflect on our predictions and examine what aspects of the pandemic were short-term reactions, and which aspects of life might be permanently reflected in how we think about the built environment.
Cities around the globe have widely adopted the concept of adaptive reuse and the importance of investing in historic sites and bringing them into the present day. Instead of focusing on brand new, ground-up construction, many are seeing the value in repurposing structure for new programs. Old churches are becoming restaurants, factories are transformed into museums and apartments, and warehouses are designed to become iconic office spaces. But beyond individual buildings, some planners and preservationists are reimagining what it means to revitalize in a similar way, but at a city scale, and how we can determine the buildings that would benefit our neighborhoods if they are repurposed.
Planning cities and the way that we comfortably live in them is often a pull between many things. From creating affordable housing for all, enhancing community facilities and amenities, and designing walkable neighborhoods, all aspects of urban design have trade-offs, or do they? While there are many reasons why cities are becoming increasingly more expensive, dense, and less pedestrian-friendly, one of the key drivers behind the increase in unaffordability has to do with the way that outdated zoning codes drive the lack of available housing that they regulate.
The impact that the climate crisis has had on the globe over the last decade is a critical influence on how architects and urban planners design future cities. It’s clear that both at an individual and corporate level, it’s important to take action and protect the earth before the negative impacts change our familiar environments forever- and time is running out fast. When it comes to creating ways to save our cities from “the next big one”, whether it be a hurricane, flood, snowstorm, or fire, the way that we design the preventative infrastructure neglects a significant number of people. Climate change doesn’t just impact the wealthiest places in the world, it actually has greater effects on the most impoverished.
Almost a century after the iconic aesthetic emerged, Art Deco is finally having its comeback. As seen in new projects, interior spaces, and furniture around the globe, the glitz and glam that makes us long for the Roaring 20s of the early 20th century is now giving us a small taste of the Roaring 20s revival in the 21st century. As the distinct identity of Art Deco architecture and design has continued to inspire the world, what can we expect for new designs, and the preservation of existing ones?
One of the big economic factors of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the issue of tenant evictions and rent moratoriums. As millions of people quickly lost their jobs, it meant that they began to struggle to pay their rents. Now, as the economy slowly begins to recover and some return to work, there’s been pushback on the moratoriums, with landlords and tenants being split on how to move forward with the future payments. Tenants still can’t pay their rent and landlords themselves are burdened by the lack of income. But what this tug of war really sheds light on is how out of reach the costs of living have become in some of the densest cities, and how housing in some ways has been seen as an amenity, not a necessity or a basic right- even in a global pandemic.
“Local” is a word that is broadly used to describe something particular about a place that makes it different from somewhere else. Across the globe, the “local-ness” of our cities is what makes them unique- in the way that people live, work, socialize, and especially in the way that they plan and construct cities and infrastructure. To someone living in a suburb, the way that they move from place to place might be through a car, while someone who lives in a dense metropolis might use a subway or bus system as part of their everyday lives.
Over the last 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant owners around the globe have continuously suffered over the past year- especially small, independent establishments. If there’s one glimmer of hope that many of them have experienced, as public health guidelines continue to evolve, it’s that many cities have relaxed their policies and allowed restaurants to construct temporary shelters on sidewalks and in streets as a means to keep their businesses afloat. But in life after the pandemic, how should we address these setups? Should we turn them into something more permanent and allow outdoor dining to stay?
In the world of design and urban planning, aesthetics and functionality seem to take the spotlight, especially in how large-scale housing projects are developed. While this can be a good thing that continuously pushes the modern boundary of what we consider to be a dwelling, in some aspects, it has shined a negative light on how we perceive and stigmatize “bad design” in public and affordable housing, the socioeconomic factors that have created the need for it, and the types of residents who benefit most from these types of housing policies.
Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the fact that some of the poorest people were hit the hardest by not only the impacts the virus had on public health but also the social and economic shockwaves that came as a result. And now, as we emerge on the other side yet also enter the second wave of restrictions around the globe, urban planners and government officials are beginning to realize that the pandemic has pulled back the curtains on another inequitable feature of cities- the proximity to public parks and spaces.