Small offices, portable markets, art-tight suits – what will the new reality look like after/with Coronavirus
The global coronavirus pandemic that has struck us in recent months has put the world to a number of serious trials. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives, others lost their jobs, the borders closed... Some businesses went bankrupt, others showed empathy and flexibility and made a timely contribution to the fight against COVID 19. The fashion giants Louis Vuitton and Burberry, for example, adequately took a step away from luxury and started making protective clothing for people on the front line. Louis Vuitton restructured several of its factories in France to produce hundreds of thousands of non-surgical masks for healthcare professionals. Burberry supplied hospitals in the UK with 100 000 surgical masks. Chanel factories began sewing masks and protective clothing for doctors.
As the power of the virus diminishes and the world ‘restarts’, we look to the future after/with COVID 19, looking for answers to the questions of what awaits us and what ‘the new normal’ will look like.
In early May, Milan officials called on architects and designers to invent devices for social distance that would allow bars, restaurants and other public places to open, ensuring the safety of their visitors. Signs to remind people to stay away from each other and signboards to reorganize the layout of commercial spaces are part of the measures to help restart the city after a two-month lockdown. All companies, organizations, institutions and freelancers have been invited to present their ideas, which will be collected in a digital catalogue. It will be provided to traders and the idea is that they find solutions in it according to their specific needs.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has produced a 19-page document on the safe opening and operation of buildings that have been closed due to the coronavirus, such as offices, schools, cafes and restaurants. The document includes three type of measures: physical or engineering – ventilation and protective barriers; administrative – work from home or on schedules; personal protective equipment. The document insists on systematic changes in the buildings. Among the measures proposed by the architects are: keeping a distance of 1.8 meters between employees, installing movable barriers, using natural daylight and windows that open, reducing the use of heating systems, air-conditioners and ventilation. Other measures include the use of non-contact systems, the installation of antimicrobial surfaces and portable indoor air purifiers. The document also proposes measures aimed at shops – limiting the number of customers, special hours for high-risk customers and designing a process ensuring that visitors will be distanced.
TECHNOLOGIES ARE CHANGING SHOPPING
Despite the measures taken for social distance and disinfection, 89 percent of the shoppers have concerns about shopping in physical stores, according to a survey. ‘The next eight months will be crucial even for big brands’, said Nitin Mangtani, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PredictSpring, a company that creates mobile applications for brands such as Sandro, Brooks Brothers and Dooney & Bourke. Technology comes to help traders here. Decathlon, for example, uses radio-frequency identification of goods. A robot equipped with an antenna goes through the store and makes an inventory of the goods, each of which has a unique digital ‘label’. This avoids touching the articles and facilitates the execution of online purchase orders. More and more retailers are expected to introduce technology as it becomes more affordable as a price.
Thanks to the mobile applications, stores could become purchase order acceptance centers and the decision on what to buy will be made before the buyer reaches the store. Customers will be able to inform themselves of what’s in the store and order while standing on the sidewalk in front. A ‘smart’ counter will monitor how many people are in the store based on their mobile devices. Many stores are improving their self-service and payment systems in order to reduce personal contact when shopping. For example, Decathlon has a store with an area of 13 000 square meters, which employs only 10 employees. Experts predict that contactless payments such as Apple Pay and Google Pay will become more widespread.
The Dutch studio Shift Architecture Urbanism has already developed a model for a farmer market that allows people to shop while respecting the rules of social distancing. The design consists of 16-square grids that can be easily set up in the public squares of any town or city. Shift’s proposal is based on the idea that existing food markets could be split up and dispersed throughout local neighborhoods. They call them ‘micromarkets that operate on a hyper-local scale’. Each micromarket consists of just three stalls. There is one entrance but two exits, and each stall has two counters – one for accepting orders and one for collecting orders. The stalls sell packages rather than individual products, in order to reduce the time each customer spends. Up to six customers are allowed at once. The whole structure is easy to move, and the idea is that micromarkets go around different neighborhoods. This completely changes the concept of shopping – people do not go to market, market goes to people, explained from the architecture studio. They emphasize that, in order to work successfully and ensure product diversity, market management must be controlled by local authorities.
GOING TO A PARTY WITH AN AIR-TIGHT SUIT
Social life is slowly reviving – the fear of the virus gives way to the desire to communicate tet-a-tet. And there are innovations here that would allow us to have fun without worrying about our health.
The creative studio Production Club has presented an idea for a personal protective suit for night clubs and concerts during a pandemic. The party personal protective equipment (PPE) suit, called Micrashell, includes features for smartphone integration and beverage consumption. Described by the studio as ‘the future of human interaction’, the design comprises an air-tight top suit and helmet that covers the hands, upper torso and head. A special pocket in the suit holds and connects to the user’s smartphone to allow them to control certain features via their device. This includes a camera that can be used to take photos and videos of the event. The suit is secured to the body with expandable straps, making it suitable for people of different sizes. These straps can be customized with add-ons, thus becoming an eccentric fashion accessory. The helmet has a particulate filtration system. The studio is currently in the process of creating prototypes of its own concept. Thanks to the simple design, the designers hope to have the first batch of suits available for testing in a few months.
New York’s designer Joe Doucet has revealed his concept of a face shield to protect against coronavirus that could be worn like a pair of sunglasses. According to him, the design will be less uncomfortable than traditional alternatives. Doucet, who is currently searching for a brand or manufacturing partner to produce the shield, imagines that the entire device would be made of polycarbonate and manufactured in the same way as typical sunglasses.
LARGE offices will be a thing of the past
As for the working environment, large offices will become a thing of the past. This was predicted by the interior designer Sevil Peach, co-founder of the London-based studio SevilPeach Architecture. According to her, big offices will be replaced by smaller hubs and co-working spaces. During the coronavirus pandemic, many companies found that distant work was beneficial and rewarding. It is likely that, even after the danger of infection has passed, the companies will maintain smaller offices, where employees will gather for face-to-face meetings or to carry out work that cannot be done remotely. Large open space offices, where many people work and ventilation and distancing are impossible will remain only a memory. Most people will work from home and those, who cannot provide the necessary environment at home, from co-working places.
In the coming months, we will see which of the innovative ideas resulting from COVID 19 will be put into practice and which will remain in the field of science fiction. One thing is for sure - the world will never be the same again. And that, perhaps, is for the better