Resilient Design as the Response to Covid
Written by Jeremy Migneco, Denise Fuehne and John Berendzen
Some say the office space will never be the same, others say everything will go back to the way it was.
At Fox, we believe the truth lies somewhere in between. Resilient design will to help us return to a work environment that is more safe and ultimately healthier than before.
We’ve heard many say that spaces will need to be redesigned entirely, and that social, technological, and institutional infrastructure will need to be reimagined and reengineered. This line of thought is alarmist, pessimistic, and largely unsupported by data. We believe it is fundamental to solve for the health related risks that many of our current spaces present during these times, but even more important is to ensure that these solutions don’t inherently contradict decades or even centuries of design innovation.
The spaces of the future will still need daylight, views, and fresh air. They will need to support people connecting in planned and spontaneous ways. They should promote people working together towards common goals, even if that process looks a little different in a post-pandemic world. Above all, these spaces must still provide a sense of belonging and connection to our communities.
Our firm functions fine remotely but our work is both focused and collaborative. It is the face to face interactions, watching each other sketch options and bouncing ideas off one-another that people miss. We have successfully been back in our studio since April because resiliency was integrated into the design of our space. It is up to our employees to come into the office, people can work from home if they need to for any reason. With about 25% of employees choosing to work remote, we can maintain safe distances in our studio. When attending meetings or walking around the office, we wear masks. Our employees and space are flexible to adjust.
Knowing this, the end goal isn’t to redesign a space for a pandemic, but to craft a design that works for people regardless of whether there’s a pandemic or not. We call this resilient design.
Fox has created a series of design patterns that focus on resiliency. We responded to the need for social distancing, hands free use and safe indoor/outdoor environments while still designing around functionality when the pandemic has ended (and new challenges arise).
If centuries of history have taught us anything, it’s that people will always come back together to do great things. Gathering spaces are a vital part of human existence. Unfortunately, we need to maintain our distance now too. These work at opposing ends. Resilient design allows for both needs to be met. Some designs require small modifications to function in a Socially Distant World, as is the case with the design for an Enclosed Team Room:
Several components are integrated into the designs. People need both simple explanatory signage and intuitive, subconscious design cues to guide their travel. Some social distancing measures are as simple as removing excess furniture (to be replaced once the pandemic has ended, fingers crossed it’s as soon as possible). For larger groups multiple ways in and out help traffic flow. Technology will help integrate those outside the office to join in the conversations. Mechanical systems will provide fresh air and help filter contaminants.
These are a few of the design impacts we and others are incorporating into our work. We will be sharing more ideas in the coming days. Connect with Fox Architects to tell us your stories and learn more about our work.