For the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, AN will use this column to keep our readers up to date on how the pandemic is affecting architecture and related industries. This weekly article is meant to digest the latest major developments in the crisis and synthesize broader patterns and what they could mean for architecture in the United States. The previous edition of the column can be found here.
The first full week of July hasn’t brought great coronavirus-related news, unfortunately. May’s Architecture Billings Index, which the AIA published at the end of June, showed the architecture industry continuing to contract after a particularly rough April, and the week brought bad news for architecture media, as well. British magazine Blueprint announced that it is ending its print editions, and New York-based magazine Contract is completely shutting down at the end of the summer. That’s on top of news from the past few months of Curbed closing many of its local outlets.
Local transit could be another victim of the pandemic. As many continue to stay at home to avoid contagion, ridership on mass transit lines across the country has plummeted and with it, mass transit revenue. San Francisco’s buses are feeling the heat; 40 of the city’s 68 bus routes may be eliminated. The transit cuts are one of the many ways that the pandemic is hitting underserved and Latino, Black, and Indigenous communities, which often rely on mass transit more than their white or more affluent counterparts, particularly hard.
On a more optimistic note, several organizations have recently published guides on how spaces can be adapted to protect people from disease. A toolkit from Baltimore’s government and collaborators focuses on safer ways to reopen public spaces, and an AIA guide offers resources for reworking senior housing. Both have ideas for how to divide space to promote social distancing and how to minimize contact with shared surfaces, among other suggestions.
For a more theoretical discussion on the pandemic’s effects on architectural practice, professors Phil Bernstein and Mario Carpo have kicked off the Post-Pandemic Potentials column with an exchange debating how much COVID-19 will change the profession. Carpo initiated the dialog by arguing that the pandemic won’t disrupt the way designers work in the long term because so many architects and academics resist change. Bernstein rebutted by saying that change is possible if designers believe in it. Bernstein also argued that architects can find new solutions to the pandemic’s design problems if they learn to use data and digital tools better, while acknowledging that designers haven’t been particularly adept at radically readjusting their working methods.
The Post-Pandemic Potentials column will continue and broaden the discussion in the future.
Until then, be well!