Design in a Pandemic: Architecture

When the COVID-19 virus swept the globe in early 2020, it seemed as if the world had changed entirely. As more information about the virus became known, it is increasingly clear that the concept of space – the physical distance between people; indoors vs. outdoors; the way we use spaces to work and interact – is a crucial consideration for health outcomes. The way spaces are designed, re-purposed, and reimagined, can literally save lives.

A building’s design can “make or break” whether it’s conducive to social distancing and other health best practices. Many densely packed urban cities were the earliest places the virus cases surged, as the existing infrastructure forced people closer together.

But New Orleans’ historic architecture is uniquely suited to pandemic living, according to National Geographic, in a recent interview with Lake Douglas, LSU College of Art & Design associate dean of research. Historical architectural styles of Louisiana homes are more befitting to social distancing, with classic verandas and sweeping porches from which people can interact.

New designs are following suit, finding innovative ways to bridge connections between interior and exterior spaces. And architects have adapted quickly to the challenges of designing during the pandemic, said Christine Cangelosi Redmon (BID 2010), architect at EskewDumezRipple.

Christine Cangelosi Redmon

Christine Cangelosi Redmon. Photo by Craig Mulcahy

“As a design team, we have all learned how to utilize our online platforms to collaborate better and grown in our communication styles,” she said. “We take for granted all the casual conversations in our shared spaces so when we lost the ability to all be together, we had to learn quickly how to make sure everyone was communicating effectively. Being more facile in the online collaboration mediums has allowed us to still work as a team, harvesting the best ideas from everyone, while following safety guidelines.”

“As advocates for healthy environments, the pandemic helped make our case to many clients. We often push for higher ventilation rates, operable windows, access to nature and fresh air as well as environmentally responsible finishes that can be easily disinfected, but it was not always a priority for each job,” Cangelosi Redmon said. “Now it is the first thing most clients want to discuss which is refreshing and exciting for all end users. I think the future is full of healthier environments because of this pandemic.”

“The pandemic has made us all more aware of the range of personal comfort around health and safety,” she said.

“More than ever, architects are being called upon to be advocates for the human experience in the built environment.”

“Before the pandemic, the conversation was limited to user experience, whereas now we are talking about user experience within the context of a range of health and safety protocols,” she explained. “The broadening of this discussion is leading to more inclusive, diverse and rich conversations about the environments around us.”

The EDR Team

Man wrapped in yellow caution tape

Mark Ripple as “Caution Man”

“One of our principals and fellow LSU alum Mark Ripple went the extra mile to bring joy to our faces by dressing as ‘Caution Man,” she shared. “His 6’ of separation cape brought many laughs and smiles. When I asked Mark about Caution Man he reminded me that it is the role of design leadership to make people feel safe so they can create. He knew we would be okay despite the pandemic – after all, the firm did survive Katrina.”

“Living in Louisiana means learning to be resilient. We know how to pick ourselves up from unfathomable situations, help each other out and ultimately find the joy in our way of life.”

“Being educated in Louisiana means learning how to pull from the creative resilient energy around you to deliver a future full of amazing possibilities.”