This month marks the one-year anniversary since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Puerto Rico. It has been a year of challenges, of loss and reinvention for everyone around the world. As the anniversary ends, we are reflecting on how the pandemic has changed our firm, Architecture, and Interior Design, the construction industry overall, and the future of design.
On March 12, 2020, the government of Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19. Those were times filled with great uncertainty and worry since very little was known about the virus as it continued to spread across the globe.
The architecture and interior design industry, like most other industries, was faced with a fight or flight situation. According to The Washington Post Magazine, “The shutdown hit the industry hard, with the Architectural Billings Index, experiencing its largest single-month decline since the American Institute of Architects developed the economic indicator 25 years ago. By April, more than 8 in 10 architectural firms surveyed by the AIA had applied for federal Paycheck Protection Program loans.”
The construction industry was forced to understand the designer’s focus towards health, wellbeing and sustainability. These concepts were not new to us as architects or interior designers. For years we have been advocating for holistic, sustainable design solutions. These sustainable measures include natural light maximization, energy conservation and waste reduction. COVID-19, finally got the entire construction industry quickly on board.
After spending much of the year indoors, outdoor spaces in homes, schools, restaurants and businesses have become increasingly important with a much lower risk of COVID infection compared to indoor spaces. It’s also been proven that getting fresh air and sunshine helps improve people’s mood and mental health. Similarly, large indoor spaces are being designed in commercial and institutional areas for people to be able to safely practice social distancing.
Considering that technology has played a key factor in connecting people and businesses during the pandemic, spaces are being designed to integrate all types of technology. Charging stations, hotspot areas, cameras and portable technology areas are being implemented in homes and commercial areas alike so that it seamlessly adapts to users’ needs.
Spending so much time at home during lockdown made people realize the importance of their physical space and the impact it has on their wellbeing. More often architects and interior designers are being asked to design Zen areas that provide a space to relax and decompress. Zen areas are spaces either indoors or outdoors that are designed to bring comfort and joy to the user.
Architects and interior designers are designing to comply with CDC health guidelines to keep the community healthy and safe. You should expect to see more spaces designed for permanent sanitation areas, branded safety kits, no-touch infrared thermometers, and stations for people to recycle masks and gloves.
The pandemic has transformed our lives and the architecture and interior design industry forever. Even though we are living through unprecedented and challenging times, architects and interior designers are more relevant than ever as they work arduously towards bringing solutions that provide a safe and healthy use of space for people and future generations to come.