Innovative Design Responses to Combat COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed the world and the way we look at it. The pandemic is leaving a lasting impact on people’s mind-set and it will take a while for us to get back to normalcy. So what should we do in such situations?

Should we stop going out or socializing? No!

In this short frame of time, the design sector has gone to an entirely different level to achieve the new ‘normal’. Creativity and conscious designs are the two factors that are catering in making the impact of COVID-19 to the minimum by inculcating methods that help people in socializing but distantly. The pandemic has made the people much more conscious and aware, people are rethinking their basic household methods and are coming up with new innovations. Apart from this, several architects and design thinkers are coming to the forefront to initiate a change that is feasible to all.

Small scale innovations like the one in Schwerin, Germany where the customers at a popular café are given hats with pool noodles while they are having their meal. This method allows the customers to have a dining experience but also ensures a conscious distancing between them and also adds a tinge of humor to it.

Another innovation is the PPE vending machines (Personal Protective Equipment) manufactured by Selecta, a provider of vending solutions. They have come up with vending machines that provide PPE essentials such as face masks and sanitizers on the go. These vending machines are located in prime locations such as the Zurich Airport, Brussels train station, etc.

Managing Director of Selecta Belgium, Tim Goossens said: “As our economy is slowly restarting, it is important to us that we’re able to respond to our customers’ changing needs. These products and services enable us to do that.”

The Domino Park in New York is one such example where the park is painted in white circles to encourage public safety. This waterfront park has been one of the frontiers in designing innovative methods where the visitors are separated by a 6 feet distance from each other, 6 feet being the recommended distance for safety. These circles are 2.4 meters in diameters which allows a comfortable space for 2 to 3 people to sit within the sphere that is socially safe to interact. This method is a relatively cheap solution to mitigate the urban issues of crowding and interactions. Other guidelines such as wearing masks, distribution of facemasks, and police patrolling are done to ensure order.

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Some of the other innovations done within the park include the picnic blanket designed by the London based designer Paul Cocksedge. This blanket allows people to share a common space and yet be socially distant. The design is easy to make and use and yet socially conscious.

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Other methods such as using a fiberglass frame to help people maintain social distance are also available in various parks. This modular frame design is done by SBGA Blengini Ghirardelli studio.

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The Serres Separees a restaurant in Amsterdam has recently been renovated. They have created a socially distant dining experience with the distancing measures. They have made quarantine greenhouses or chambers where people are enclosed in a transparent glass structure. The transparency allows the people to connect with the outer environment and yet keeps them safe from it. The highlight of these quarantine chambers is its adaptability and replicability. This solution can be adapted in various hospitality and gastronomy sectors.

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Architectural Firms like BIG and Foster + Partners are manufacturing mass 3D printed face shields for healthcare workers.

“We are sharing the design templates and material specifications as an open-source design asset. This is to encourage both designers, and in particular large-scale manufacturers to investigate the potential of digital and laser cutting machines as an alternative to 3Dprinting technology ”, says Foster + Partners.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the United States has designed a disposable PPE in response to the current pandemic and environmental crisis.

The world is changing and the way we live in it is also changing. With a pandemic, this vast and impactful, a need to rethink every factor of designing has become an utmost necessity. Architects and design thinkers within a thin frame of time have started equipping themselves as per the changing times to caters to solutions that are relevant to the new ‘normal’.

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Saili Sawantt
Saili Sawantt
Architect and Interior Designer by profession, Writing is what she treats as her passion. She has worked as an Architectural Writer, Editor, and Journalist for various design as well as digital portals like ParametricArchitecture, FOAID (Festival of Architecture & Interior Design), Rethinking the Future (RTF), La Polo International, etc. Formerly she has also worked with Godrej Properties Limited (GPL) Design Studio, Mumbai due to her keen interested in learning about Sustainability and Green buildings. Apart from this, she runs her blog 'The Reader's Express'.

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