Should designers, planners and architects be considering how to model the spread of diseases through urban environments in the same way as they might model traffic and the movement of people?
With the threat of quarantines (and people already self-isolating) as the coronavirus spreads, and a possible increase in the threat of pandemics (we have had SARS, MERS and Ebola threats in recent years as well), will there be an increased tension between the public’s wish for public space, to meet and mingle, and health concerns that this is precisely the type of environment that allows the spread of infection?
Unfortunately some of the best designs to limit such contagion can be ugly or sterile, but should more inspiration be taken from the design of modern hospital, for example (recognising the arguments that not all modern hospitals are beacons of architectural beauty), including healthcare as a design consideration, to try to minimise public health concerns (for example, using contactless payment systems and touch free sinks), whilst still allowing social interactions to flourish? Will developers start to see such requirements in tender invitations and design competitions as landowners become more aware that outbreaks can be linked to certain places and buildings. And will the market take such matters into account when determining the true value of a building or area?
“If architects took it seriously as a design challenge, they could actually do it in a very beautiful and even unnoticeable way... we could live in a world as clean and safe as a hospital”