Redefining public and commercial spaces post-COVID

The world has been experiencing a never-seen-before scenario since the onset of the corona virus in 2019-2020. The impacts of the COVID 19 have known to have profound consequences on people's general simple daily habits and practices outdoors – like walking and mingling with other people freely, doing their shopping, outings, going to movies and restaurants, participating in group activities like weddings, parties and other events, public protests and meetings, running marathons, group tours and so on.

Due to the uncertainty of the situation and absence of a medication or vaccine as yet, people have been confined to homes, smaller group activities, ceaselessly social-distancing and sanitizing hands and being overall cautious when outside. This has become the “new normal” for the world now. But the cases have been dwindling in some regions, and gradually many people have begun to see this as a ray of hope for them to be able to get back to the normal that they were used to before COVID-19.

Though the restrictions on going out have been eased, and vaccines are somewhat successfully being tested, the uncertainty is yet to efface fully. The desire to be in open spaces for people is often followed by a natural concern over their health, especially after so many months of being indoors, due to the lockdowns and pandemic agitation.

This has called for architects, engineers and designers to do lots of rethinking in terms of the structure and designs of our public and commercial spaces, in order for people to be able to lead a lifestyle that consists of safe outdoor activities, enabling them to return to some kind of social life that they have been devoid of during isolation period.

Public parks are deemed to be a good alternative for outings, physical activity or small gatherings, since they are more accessible to people and have lots of space, thus healthier and the space can be planned to accommodate and keep a large number of people safe, through certain measures. Engineers believe that such parks and spaces can be useful in this regard, although furniture such as benches and fitness equipment is better avoided, to minimize surface contact.

Smaller spaces like colonies and common residential spaces are touted to be expanded and re-designed to accommodate more space and activity. Because of the lockdown, many people are beginning to think on the scale of the neighbourhood, valuing pedestrian mobility. Small areas and squares, which are accessible on foot or by bicycle can be made completely safe with few changes, because in these small spaces and squares, with social distancing and wearing a mask, the risk of contamination is much smaller. It is possible to walk around and relax or rewind in these spaces.

Designers and architects are coming up with more such solutions, that can be personalized to each neighborhood or area, depending on the accessibility and population that uses these. Designers, engineers and architects are now in a very important place of contribution, as the world is going through a great deal of change in terms of design and structure.

Building societies and colony presidents have been consulting architects and designers in this regard, so that the space they dwell in is as safe and friendly as possible to the situation outside. Schools and institutions are also beginning to plan redesigning of their spaces in order to accommodate physical learning yet again and consulting engineers and architects for space solutions, so that more and more students, including in villages and places with lesser access to all forms of technology (for online learning) can get back to schools physically as soon as possible.

This new normal is touted to become the normal for many years to come, and the design changes spaces are going through now are required to be sustainable, according to experts. It is yet to be seen how true this is, but as of now, it is important to invest in some design change for spaces that are still may be susceptible to the risk of spreading this virus.

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