(First of two parts)
We are living through a most challenging period in history. The collective experience that all of us are navigating bonds us together with questions about the future of our communities.
As we slowly emerge from the shock of being placed under quarantine for months, we must now reassess how we have built our physical environment and how much more we need from it.
The density of our cities and the pace of our modern life have made us view our built environment as transient spaces that serve our immediate needs—a sort of wanderlust aesthetic that moves from place to place without appreciating the depth or richness of each.
This pandemic allowed us to slow down and spend more time in and observe, not just our homes, but all the places we need. We lead very human lives with human lifestyles in human societies. We are vulnerable both in body and mind, and the well-being of our people and communities have been taken for granted in the mad rush of our consumer driven society.
This is an unprecedented time of change and convulsion. It is an opportunity for humanity to reassess the reality of our built environment. COVID-19 has made it highly evident that, for all the bluster and grand promises of our social covenant, the hyper-capitalist pattern of unfettered growth and consumption does not work.
Architecture has long known and pushed for better and more holistic spaces. This period allows us to not just reinforce these ideas, but also explore how we can direct these changes towards a more sustainable environment. We have no contingencies or experiences to fall back on for this pandemic. We can only explore and redefine how we build our communities to better serve the health and well-being of each and every one of us.
A couple days ago, I was completely enamored with how many birds were flying around the balcony, amid the backdrop of our city, as I watched the sun set. For many of us, a breath of fresh air as we hang around our balconies and terraces, has been the highlight of our days over the last few months.
We have spent so much time in our personal bubbles that we practically developed a relationship with each wall and piece of furniture. We have become explorers of our own homes, trying to find the best lighting for painting or sketching, or the most quiet spaces for web meetings. There is beauty in domestic spaces.
We found all the delights and deficiencies of our homes, and have come to realize that we are all unique individuals with particular needs, and one size does not fit all. What do we need? We need fresh air and open spaces; functional balconies where you can sit down and relax, sip a cup of tea, or read a book; as well as gardens and terraces that are not merely leftover spaces, but a place unto themselves where we can have a touch of nature in our lives.