Resilient Housing in a Post-Corona World
Urban life 23 June 2020 Ofri Earon
In the first of a series of articles exploring solutions to creating resilient places in the wake of Covid-19, a panel of experts give their views on how the housing sector will evolve in the future.
In the first of a series of articles exploring solutions to creating resilient places in the wake of Covid-19, a panel of experts gave their views on how the housing sector will evolve in the future in a recent webinar.
After people have been asked to stay at home during the Corona-crisis, the concept of a ‘home’ has changed from being a private entity to an all-encompassing ’container’ accommodating the total sum of our life activities - with work, schooling, exercising, and meeting friends and family all taking place from home. As society starts to re-open, this presents a unique opportunity to reflect on how we live, where we live and how we can design better housing in the future.
Inside the home
The need for multi-purposing homes has increased. During the corona-crisis, homes had to accommodate a wide range of activities – and for the whole family to carry out these activities at the same time. Yet most dwellings are not designed for such complex usage. Multifunctionality can be achieved by designing rooms to be more flexible, so they can fulfil different needs at different times.
From a sociological point of view, the home permeates into our social and work relations and tells colleagues and business partners something about who we are and how we live - for example, it forms the background for online meetings conducted from home. The home has therefore become stronger than ever as a symbol of personal identity.
The importance of the home has also changed. Where previously the home was our ’private space’, it has now more become our ’safe space’ – where we feel safe and in control of danger of infection. This places new demands on the home as a place with maximum hygiene and easy-to-clean materials and surfaces.
The corona crisis has also brought the outside areas of homes into focus. Outside areas have proved to be crucial to our mental and social well-being and have served both as recreational breathing spaces and places for social contact.
It follows that future outside areas such as balconies and patios will change from being a luxurious additional choice to a standard requirement. Communal spaces such as the courtyard areas of flats may also need to be rethought as an integral part of homes.
Whilst the need for outside meeting points will continue in the future, it must be balanced with respect for residents’ privacy. This is possible through the design of outside areas and the edge zones between the home and communal areas – for example, by creating enclosed courtyard environments and screens to prevent people from looking into ground floor flats.
Implications for the urban environment
The risk of viral infection has influenced our perception of ’density’ and ’distance’. Compact cities with their high concentration of citizens have become epicentres of the pandemic. This has made it clear that there is a limit on how closely we can live and created a potential conflict between the sustainable, densely populated city and the healthy, open city. This may lead to remote city districts becoming more developed and rural areas enjoying a renaissance.
In Denmark, many people moved out of their city residences and started using summer houses as their primary base. Here, they have access to open spaces and nature whilst also being able to work. This trend may continue as we become more flexible in our approach to the home, which has implications as to whether the densely populated city remains a sustainable concept.
From a historical perspective, large crises such as epidemics, wars and catastrophes have changed the way cities and housing are developed, and Covid-19 is no exception. Whilst the full implications for architecture and planning remain unclear, factors such as flexibility, control, homely, robustness, community, private life, edge zones, sustainability and peripheral urbanisation will become more important in the future.
This article has been written in collaboration with Ørestad Innovation City Copenhagen (ØICC). The webinar panel comprised Martin Wagner (Tetris), Lise Groes (CEO at IS IT A BIRD), Mette Mogensen (Domea.dk, Tina Saaby (Gladsaxe Municipality), Signe Kongebro (Henning Larsen Architects), Ofri Earon (Ramboll).
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