ArchDaily's theme of August 2020, How We Will Live Together, invites readers to contemplate the way we inhabit spaces with those around us. In this article, we address different aspects of coexistence in a world impacted by COVID-19 and the changes that need to be made in order to create a world where everyone has the space to live, work, and grow.
Nowadays, our day to day interactions with those around us hinge on social distancing, leading many to question--is this truly the best solution for curbing the spread of COVID-19? With people worldwide still reeling from the socio-economic upheaval caused by the pandemic, the concept of forcefully distancing yourself from friends and family, especially at at time when you most need them, seems just plain inhuman. While distancing is undoubtedly necessary, it seems more optimistic words would serve to better drive home the message. For example, a slogan like 6ft of Empathy maintains the necessary safety principles without stripping away the social element that humanity thrives on.
Over the past few years, work spaces have been reimagined and restructured to better accommodate their human occupants and optimize workflow and interaction. This movement has spawned the creation of coworking spaces; however, since the COVID-19 outbreak, we've been forced to rethink productivity and how (and where) it is best achieved.
To achieve this, we must first delve into the root issue. Revamping work spaces centers on productivity, or better yet, the drive to be even more productive; an obsession that impacts quality of life worldwide.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, productivity has changed and, in many cases, decreased as discussed by Giancarlo Mazzanti in an interview with ArchDaily. According to the architect, he works more now than he did before COVID, a fact that we are seeing across a range of professions, with the academic sector seeing a particularly harsh shift in how and when work gets done. Schools have had to take drastic measures in order to reach sectors with limited access to online learning resources. Governments have intervened to ensure that students make it through the school year or have scrapped the 2020 academic year altogether, as the Kenyan government opted to do.
According to the World Bank, over 85% the world's children have been impacted by the virus, mainly through the loss of education and the consequent increase in inequality that this causes. This, coupled with the possible recession, will have disastrous consequences for productivity and will be even more damaging for the world's younger students. In their recently published article, Unicef offered advice to parents on how best to support the emotional wellbeing of children headed back to school amidst the confusion and uncertainty and how to address the inevitable frustrations that would arise. This begs the question, is it worth having a productive society that is also emotionally and psychologically damaged?
The Uniting Principle: Empathy
Empathy is the moral compass that tells us how we will live together, whether for work or life. Designer Chiara Gambarana said in an interview with ArchDaily that "we have a great opportunity to come together, to share in needs and to collaborate to see that they are met. Why not start with the places where we live? Why not organize a meal with your neighbors on the patio?"
Given the circumstances, many living spaces have taken on the role of Home Offices as people were forced to remain home during the outbreak. Even though many homes have built in work spaces, the majority of homes throughout the world are getting smaller.
So what is the price of a decent life where we can live and work together? The answer doesn't lie only within our interior spaces. After all, as we have seen throughout the pandemic, it's not possible or healthy to be confined to our homes. With the rising home prices and overall cost of living, co-living projects have emerged as a way to meet the needs of multiple inhabitants in a way that inspires collaboration and communal participation.
For people who still need to commute to work, public spaces become a critical determinant in their quality of life and, unfortunately, not everyone receives equal treatment when they enter these spaces. Would it not be ideal that every resident could feel comfortable walking through their neighborhoods regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation?
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It's only natural that a city's residents seek out spaces where they feel secure or closer to nature, in the case of green spaces. However, this can be short term as cities are altered during events like pandemics. Perhaps it would better to wait for public policy to catch up on their efforts to better public spaces. This presents a great opportunity for architecture. With cities becoming even more densely populated and the rising demand for better living conditions, privacy and open spaces will play central roles in fulfilling the needs of residents.
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Norms and trends in development change in accordance with new realities, and multi-use spaces hold the key to living and working together, allowing us to enjoy public areas, not out of necessity, but out of the pure delight in taking part the collective well-being of our living spaces.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: How Will We Live Together. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics here. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.