Entertainment COVID is changing everyday design as outdoor dining, hygiene and work-from-home dominates

22:01  20 january  2021
22:01  20 january  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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As we isolate in our homes , we become increasingly aware of how our interior spaces affect our moods, our ability to work and our physical comfort. This designer believes that the current Corona virus crisis will impact how we design spaces in the future.

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a bridge over water with a city in the background: Artist renders of a new project in Melbourne by Elenberg Fraser that incorporates several pandemic responsive principles. (Supplied: Elenberg Fraser) © Provided by ABC Health Artist renders of a new project in Melbourne by Elenberg Fraser that incorporates several pandemic responsive principles. (Supplied: Elenberg Fraser)

It might not be something we will notice on a grand scale until years down the track, but architects say "COVID design" is emerging as function influences form.

Pandemic-responsive design is already being considered in interior design, theatres and even bathroom surfaces.

After enduring two lockdowns, Melbourne is witness to this change.

Across its CBD, a company that had been supplying temporary marquees for major events like the Spring Racing Carnival has pivoted to supplying the marquees to restaurants for outdoor dining.

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"The market doesn't have a lot of confidence and can't be guaranteed of time lines with goal posts shifting almost daily," Spacecube's chief executive Mark Davies said.

"Therefore pre-engineered, rapid deployable infrastructure that is relocatable and premium has been of high interest."

In Melbourne's south, a local theatre has come up its own solution, so the show can go on during a time of social distancing.

Theatre Works' so-called "Glasshouse" was designed by its artistic associate, Steven Mitchell Wright, to segment small groups in a way that makes them still visible to each other in see-through booths.

"Their booths are lit up in different coloured LED lights. It feels like you're getting on a plane," Mr Mitchell Wright said.

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"I like watching people walk into that space for the first time. It's not just a little partition.

"It's an elegant and futuristic booth."

While temporary solutions, both the fancy restaurant marquees and the theatre's Glasshouse display elements of functional and modular design that experts say are ripe to dominate due to the pandemic.

Charles Selden is a designer at United States firm Cornerstone Architects and has been putting his mind to the future during COVID.

While he believed some design principles were already in the works before 2020, he thinks the pandemic had sped up the uptake of functional, seamless and technology-laden design.

"Before the pandemic, we were entering a garish age. We were watching an austere version of Modernism hit, with a gilded Art Deco look," Mr Selden said.

"Aesthetically, I think this next era is going to have more of the 'less is more' factor.

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"You'll see more streamlining. A lot more hidden points of interface.

"I think you'll see a lot more reconfigurable spaces. The inside of a sailboat mentality, where things will be a lot more adaptable.

"If I had to make my wildest prediction, I'd say things will look more like the interior of a Tesla."

Mr Selden has his hesitance about some of this. For instance, the rise of facial recognition technology, which is part of the touchless movement, is being debated due to its potential for round the clock surveillance.

Regardless, Mr Selden said aesthetically the change could be noticeable.

"I think there's gong to be a bigger push towards simple lines along the aesthetic of the (German American architect) Ludwig Miles van der Rohe," he said.

"I think the '70s minimalism will come back into the fold."

Back in Melbourne, the principles Mr Selden references are already being seen in the design of early stage projects.

Elenberg Fraser's residential block 31 Coventry near the CBD went to market last year with several design elements that respond to the new world of working from home, social distancing, and virus consciousness.

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"Virus transfer via touch is a major concern," Elenberg Fraser's associate director Matt Chamberlain said.

"Thirty-one Coventry implements a keyless entry sequence. Residents' proximity cards register with the system at the entry portal, calling the lift to the lobby on approach. No touching lift buttons will be required.

"Lifts provide access directly into apartments, avoiding the need for shared lifts and long corridors.

"A reconsideration of air handling systems has been necessary in response to the air-borne nature of the virus.

"This project incorporates a fully ducted air conditioning system with direct fresh air, meaning that from the second residents open their door, the only people they will share air with is their family."

The project also has shared open spaces for residents to work from remotely, and a specific space in the building for all their online shopping to be delivered.

"The lines between live, work and play are being blurred at an accelerated pace," Mr Chamberlain said.

"Very few of the people who live and work in our built environments will ever know the full scope of the design elements we've put in place to protect them.

"That's a deliberate choice; few things are more anxiety-inducing than to be continually reminded about the things that may go wrong.

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"In a decade from now, I believe we will look back and see COVID as the optimistic turning point which resulted in a safer and healthier built environment."

Another developer, Mirvac, is also considering how to change office layouts to suit the rise of "hybrid" employment, where workers are only in the office part-time.

"Some of the design principles were already happening before the pandemic but what it has done is massively accelerate it," Mirvac's general manager of strategy and customer for commercial property, Paul Edwards, said.

"The office won't be rows and rows of desks for task-orientated work. It's going to be about spaces where collaboration and unintentional interactions take place."

Even the design of office furniture may morph to suit this.

"If I'm thinking of having an office desk, should it be fixed or on wheels? Do I need a power cable for my laptop or should I have my laptop plugged into a battery system?" Mr Edwards said.

The chief executive of the peak body for Australian designers, Jo-Ann Kellock, said graphic and industrial designers had been in especially strong demand during the pandemic, as people look to modify their homes for remote working and more.

Like Mr Selden, she believed that some past aesthetics could be the new future.

"We had already seen a lot of Modular design in the workplace and furniture space. It's very 70s," she said.

"In terms of interiors, we could see more of modular spaces that can be reconfigured fairly easily. So a space at home that moves from a quiet meeting space to something that can house the family dinner.

"I do think that in 10 years time, we will see the impact the pandemic has had.

"Maybe when you're looking at furniture we will even say: 'oh yes, they did that because we were supposed to be 1.5 metres apart."

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