Here we are in lock down, those who can, are working from home, and I suspect the company office is simply gathering dust...
This pandemic is not only killing people, but it will change our working lives possibly forever, because now we know that we have begun to wake up to the fact that these tiny viruses cannot be fully eradicated, and even if we do find vaccines and cures for this one, another will be just around the corner.. we simply do not, and never will know, what will happen next, other than we are guaranteed that 100% something will happen, and more viruses will evolve to kill us.
So, how do we adapt our daily working lives to help to protect us ? Do we simply carry on as we did before or do we try to protect each other by means of changing our habits and working practices ? One thing is for sure, we certainly need to be better prepared in the future than we were this time, and the whole world needs to dispense with national isolation and the hiding of the facts, and start to better cooperate with each other and share information so that we can tackle better the viruses and other social destroyers as they appear, and before they get a hold of our lives and attempt to destroy our civilisation.
But, as architects and designers, what can we do ? We are not front line nurses or doctors, we are not the police or politicians, we are designers, and therefore we may not be at the forefront in the battle against a virus, but we can offer something to our society, something that will benefit and better protect those who need to work in a company office or workplace, eat in a restaurant or go to anything that brings people together... But how the heck do we use our design to protect people ? what on earth can we offer that will save lives ? That, is exactly why I am writing this article, because whether or not I have any answers is not the point, but as a collective of architects, designers and creative individuals, we must evolve in not only the way we work, but how others will better work safely in their work places, attend meetings and gather socially.
In the past we have proclaimed how we are masters at making better and more aesthetically pleasing working and living environments, and indeed we even arrange various award ceremonies to clap ourselves on the back for how good we are. So now we have the opportunity to do our bit in the fight against the tiny viruses, and we had better be smart about it too... because those tiny little critters are very smart at evolving and changing to find better ways to kill us.
Since mankind first started to erect buildings, some of us have had the ability and skills to make them better places to live and work in. We have created styles and fashions, trends and ingenious ways to either start a new way to live and work, or adapt to what is needed in a contemporary time. And so it is now that we must use our creative minds and learn from our scientists the ways that must prevail from here onwards. The medical professionals and scientists will probably be as good at designing a beautiful way to work and live in, as we would be at being a doctor, nurse or scientist... But that's the point, because this part is our job, this is where we can give something back to our societies and the people that we design for.
We need to take into consideration that people will both need to be more separated from each other, but without feeling so. We need to investigate ways that will give everyone the opportunity to simply wash their hands or sanitise in a stylish and open manner. We need to help to make people feel comfortable in the new ways that their lives will change, as we adapt to a society that simply cannot continue as it has before. We need to each and collectively think of ways to better peoples environments, offices, work places and of course homes for the new way of working and living, and in such a way that it becomes fashionable and inviting. Because that's really our job, to create architecture and interiors that embrace the human spirit and advance our well being. It always has been, it is just that the rules have suddenly changed...
Maybe some of us have forgotten the most important attributes to what we should all be doing, maybe we got too stuck into trying to make our designs look more different and ground breaking than others, perhaps more from an egotistic way, rather than a human one. Maybe some have neglected the real human factor in what we do, and that is simply the fact that we are here to make peoples lives better, so we had better reboot, rethink, and quickly adapt to a new world that will surely emerge from this pandemic, because as architects and designers, it is our duty to do so, and its starts right now.
Andrew J Bannister