Modular systems, flexible spaces and ‘human ingenuity’ on the rise as architects solve new social distancing puzzles.
COVID-19 has reclassified many workers as first responders. Doctors, nurses and medical professionals, transit workers, garbage collectors, and grocery clerks all come to mind. Architects do not.
“People don’t typically think of architects as first responders,” said Amal Mahrouki, director of legislative affairs with AIA Pennsylvania. “But they can be…if they’ve gone through the right training.”
Slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus requires immediate adjustments to how we use and inhabit buildings and space.
From redesigning schools and offices to allow for socially distanced use to repurposing buildings for medical use and retrofitting existing hospitals to serve the urgent demands of a pandemic, architects and designers are finding themselves facing a new kind of demand.
The Italian architecture firm Carlo Ratti Associati made headlines in April when their designers used shipping containers to create intensive care units (ICUs) for COVID-19 patients. A temporary hospital in Turin adopted the prototype.
Closer to home, city officials spent $5 million turning Temple University’s Liacouras Center into a fully operational hospital, retrofitting the North Broad Street arena with modular isolation units and beds lined up in efficient, carefully distanced rows.
“We’re really dealing with ‘what does public health need right now to do what they have facing them today and tomorrow,’” said Al Comly, disaster assistance coordinator and a long-time member of the AIA National Disaster Committee.
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