But the next 3 weeks of strict isolation gives us the opportunity to consider the future. Planning for what is next eases uncertainty, and filling our time with inspiration is empowering.
Everyone had major plans for 2020. A new year. A new decade. A fresh start.
Coronavirus has been an unexpected challenge for everyone. But it is something we are working through together, and it’s highlighting that some serious architectural rethinking is needed.
London, and every city in the UK, looks and behaves very differently right now. We’ve settled into life at home, and for the most part, our social distancing lifestyles are beginning to feel slightly less alien. We have all found a new sense of routine, compromise and normalcy. To adapt is to survive, and we know that our efforts are saving lives. That said, closed shopping centers, abandoned offices and an eerie silence will not shape our future.
Innovative architectural planning and design will. Flexibility and new thinking is key. And, thankfully, the UK has a proud history of resilience and creativity. When the lockdown lifts, home working is likely to continue, and architects are already considering the importance of home offices. In true British style, we have all made do with make-shift home offices, but the design of future homes will need to adapt to better accommodate homeworking. Many businesses are recognising the cost effective and efficient benefits of remote working, and moving forwards, many employees will feel more comfortable away from over-crowded offices.
So what is next for our densely populated offices? Darren Comber, chief executive of Scott Brownrigg, notes that, ‘how we think about the workplace will be the biggest change. We’ve seen a huge boom in co-working spaces. But, after this, are companies really going to want to put their entire team in one place, where they’re closely mingling with other businesses?”
Co-working is a concept born out of social interaction. But proximity, and enclosed office environments, may no longer seem so tempting. “I’m not suggesting we all go back to working in 1950s cellular cubicles, but I do think the density in offices will change. We’ll see a move away from open-plan layouts, as well as better ventilation and more openable windows.”
Arjun Kaicker, from Zaha Hadid Architects, adds that, “we’ll see wider corridors and doorways, more partitions between departments, and a lot more staircases. Everything has been about breaking down barriers between teams, but I don’t think spaces will flow into each other so much anymore.’ Kaicker’s team is already working on futuristic offices, and their interior and exterior architectural design is employing key post-coronavirus principles.
Recovering from this period will take time. And to some extent, it may shape the way we work and live forever. Architecture will have to respond to these changes, and London may not be the same again. Changes and challenges do not have to be negative, though.
Because, ironically, isolation has helped us to rediscover community spirit. As people, we are adaptable and resilient. And we know that this continued isolation is saving lives. But no matter how much we accept this new sense of normalcy, we are social creatures. By taking away social interaction, we have found the importance of community. Kindness, and working together, has been our biggest triumph. And this is especially true in cities.
Moving forwards, architects need to build on our newfound sense of community. New shopping centers, parks, sociable communal spaces and inclusive outdoor areas will breathe life back into our cities. New homes, apartments and development projects will respond to our changing housing and social needs. Because establishing new communities is our future.
Here at UK Brick, we’re using this time to be inspired. To plan, and to look forwards. Because, no matter how bleak it may seem, the future stops for no one. We may need to side-step, shuffle to the left, and take an unplanned detour. But, one way or another, our future will play out. Just like it did with our 2022 projects. So let's build it bigger and better than before!
The events of 2020 have not just highlighted the need for new and better housing. It has highlighted the need for communities. People and togetherness are key. And if there is anything we love here at UK Brick, it’s collaboration.
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