It’s easy to forget, in the immediate trauma of events such as COVID-19, that history has a way of sneaking up on us. Major changes rarely come with warnings, much less the assurance that the world as we know it will go on. But go on it does, even if it’s in ways that are unimaginable beforehand.
Prior to 9/11, for instance, the thought of removing your shoes to get through airport security or of limiting the amount of liquids you can bring aboard an airplane would have seemed ludicrous to most travellers — until, of course, it didn’t. Implemented almost overnight, such previously inconceivable protocols are now a commonplace part of air travel. One of the main differences between our current situation and the aftermath of a terrorist attack or an earthquake is the slow-motion nature of what we’ve been going through.
For some people, lockdown hasn’t necessarily instilled clarity. “It’s just impossible right now to say how” the dining scene in New York City and elsewhere will be affected by the pandemic, the acclaimed restaurateur Keith McNally, a 40-year veteran of his industry, told Eater back in April. Others, however, have embraced the unknown more concretely, seeing in it opportunity. Many in this latter camp, I am happy to report, are architects and designers.
“From now on, technology should be used to support sustainability and health the same way that an analog solution would. It should not be used merely as a gadget,” Dutch architect Ben van Berkel, co-founder of Amsterdam-based UNStudio, told Azure when we asked him for his take on post-pandemic design. While van Berkel’s opinion was solicited, many others were gleaned after the designers reached out to us, their insights all the more inspiring for the enthusiasm behind them.
Canadian architect Paul Sapounzi, for one, was eager to share his ideas for COVID-proofing schools; the esteemed Manhattan-based hospitality designer Adam Tihany, meanwhile, hopes that his flexible barrier designs will once again give diners a sense of security, thereby providing some relief for beleaguered restaurateurs.
All of these ideas and much more have been collected in our feature on what post-COVID-19 architecture and design could potentially look like, “The Views from Here,” starting on page 64. It’s complemented by an exclusive essay by Talitha Liu and Lexi Tsien of Brooklyn studio Soft-Firm on the future of work, which, tellingly, may still include physical offices — or at least the trappings of them (see page 80).
To be sure, pivots and adaptations of the kind proposed by our experts will be easier for some cities and sectors (i.e., the larger, nimbler and wealthier ones) than those without the same resources or resilience. As Montreal architects Marc Blouin and Catherine Orzes, who have worked for many years in Canada’s North, also suggest in “The Views from Here,” the Inuit communities who call that region home have long been flexible because they’ve had to be; their geographic remoteness and the severity of the climate have dictated it.
It may be a good thing (and no coincidence) that the pandemic has coincided with a reigniting of the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. and around the world. Their confluence is a reminder, if we needed one, that achieving healthy, sustainable societies is impossible without a concomitant dedication to justice for everyone — and that this also holds opportunity.
– Danny Sinopoli, Editor
In this midst of a pandemic, Azure editor Danny Sinopoli introduces the September 2020 issue.