The Importance of Architecture and Wellbeing: Adapting our Homes in a Post-Pandemic Era
The long-term effects of COVID-19 are evident in almost every facet of daily life from shopping at the grocery store to the way we get around town. Though it may not be as widely discussed as a direct impact of the pandemic, residential design will certainly see both major and minor shifts. We’ll see a greater demand for homes to be versatile, functional, modular, and adaptable to sudden lifestyle changes. The purpose for many spaces in the home will cease to be static, as rooms will become areas that serve multiple purposes. We also anticipate an increased demand for anti-microbial fabrics, access to natural light, and cleaner air.
The global pandemic has brought about many changes. After months of isolation in our own homes, we have realized more than ever the impact our space has on our wellbeing. Whereas before we might have looked for calm and serenity elsewhere, we now long for it in our own personal spaces. We have had time to think and rethink the concept of what it means to be at home; the way we use our space, and live in it. We have seen and experienced firsthand the need for our homes to become multi-purpose and multi-functional. We are bringing in elements that improve our wellbeing, that allow us to reconnect with nature. We are looking for solutions that maximize cleanliness so that we can feel safe and comfortable. It is not about seeing design trends exclusively resulting from the pandemic, it is about the changes that the pandemic has accelerated and the shifts we can expect to see moving forward.
Biophilia in the Home
Air quality and sources of natural light are more important than ever, now that most of us have spent months in our residential environments. Indoor air quality is measured in the purity of the air we inhale, and most cities have established standards that are enforced by local and international building codes. This means that most air-conditioned spaces are just clean enough, but they aren’t necessarily optimal for our wellbeing. Optimal is fresh, natural air, free of pollution. Some of the ways in which we can improve air quality is by filtering natural air through plants, such as English Ivy, Aloe Vera, and Chrysanthemums. There are also various versatile air purifier systems on the market, ranging from desktop fans to state-of-the-art advanced machines.
In our special installation titled “Oasis” for the 2019 edition of CASACOR Miami, located in Miami, Florida, we explored the concept of mindfulness through a global lens, providing an immersive experience that allowed the viewer to engage with all senses. Participants walked through a pathway surrounded by cascading gardens. The biophilia for the exhibit curated by LAND was selected according to how plants benefit the body. Greenery has the power to create moments of healing and tranquility for the mind, body, and spirit as well as to brighten and freshen a space. In addition, greenery can impact our smell and this can enhance one’s connection to the natural world.
Translating these ideas into the design of a private residence, we have yet another example of how biophilic elements can be implemented to not only elevate the aesthetic, but to purify the air and improve wellbeing. City living creates demand for outdoor space and in one of our recent residential design concepts, located in the heart of a metropolis, we incorporated greenery and nature-inspired materials throughout the spaces. In addition, we designed a private sanctuary garden with an abundance of foliage which offers additional exposure to higher air quality in the outdoors.
Whether adding greenery to a small apartment or creating an open-air sanctuary, these types of spaces will likely become more commonplace in all residential design. Balconies will become a top priority for apartment dwellers, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Unfortunately, air quality within a larger, more densely populated city is likely not as pure as other places, however, the simple act of incorporating additional greenery can help purify the air. Biophilia positively impacts our wellbeing — from the aesthetic to the quality of air we breathe.
New Kinds of Textiles & Surfaces
The coronavirus pandemic has caused an increased demand for antimicrobial treatments that can keep surfaces clean, particularly those surfaces that are frequently touched hotspots. We will see the residential design industry adopting the use of antimicrobial fabrics from other industries, such as senior living and healthcare design –– an interesting inversion of the cross-typology blending between hospitality and the workplace. Fabrics that are antimicrobial offer protection against bacteria and other organisms, used most often in settings where disinfection is required. And it is not only about incorporating specific anti-bacterial and anti-microbial fabrics and surfaces, but about how easy it is to clean and maintain these surfaces. Afterall, we crave normality and calm in our own spaces. Design will be about offering solutions that become integrated to our daily lives and routines.
A few common antimicrobial surfaces include various metals, copper and copper alloys, such as brass and bronze. We’re already seeing an influx of these materials utilized across both the residential and commercial sectors. Pininfarina has used FENIX®, a line of smart materials created by Arpa Industriale in previous designs in collaboration with renowned kitchen designer Snaidero. The material is created by undergoing a series of processes including multi-layer coating, use of nanoparticles and acrylic resins that are hardened and cured using an innovative Electron Beam. Its high performance surface allows for dust and water to simply slide off, making the surface hygienic, mold resistant, and waterproof.
During this time, we are looking for serenity more than ever. Our homes have always been a place where we could find shelter and escape. Aligning with this notion, Pininfarina is launching a new Parquet Collection, created in collaboration with Corà and launching this coming September, which aims to give further importance to the concept of home, seeing it as a retreat of calm in the midst of uncertainty: a place to recover and reconnect with nature. The antimicrobial flooring collection’s design was inspired by elements found in nature, aimed to reduce stress by mimicking the feeling of looking at natural scenery.
When it comes to textiles, some of the most common antimicrobial fabrics are polyester and vinyl, but we anticipate more manufacturers will innovate new, softer fabrics that help keep the home clean. When considering the use of an antimicrobial fabric in a space, especially in your home, it’s essential to understand what type of textile will work best for your lifestyle, whether it be a more durable and long-lasting option –– such as for a living or entertainment space –– or one that simply complements the decor. Each environment is different and will require a bit of research to find the perfect fit.
In addition to design and layout changes, the post-pandemic era will also see an increased demand for technological solutions that bridge the gap between the current state of our homes and the eventual, re-imagination of residential spaces that take the above into consideration. As some companies transition to a full-time work from home schedule, many workers will need to find ways to retrofit their existing situations to adapt to this new lifestyle. Working from home poses great challenges, as it does positives. Configuring a home for both a comfortable and relaxing environment as well as a productive workspace is no easy task.
Taking this in stride, Pininfarina developed a concept that seeks to alleviate the work-from-home stress. The eight-in-one desktop tool kit, rooted in the idea that good design can improve quality of life (and boost productivity), the team sought an at-home solution that would optimize the experience of the work-from-anywhere revolution.
This portable, modular tool kit including a laptop stand, wireless charging surface, smart screen, 4K projector, bluetooth speaker, air purifier and microgarden, and a LED light that tracks circadian rhythms can easily transform any environment into a high-performance workspace. Utilizing a portable tool kit allows workers to set up their workspaces anywhere while still keeping their relaxing home atmosphere.
Moments like the global pandemic force us to solve challenges and find solutions quickly, but also present unique opportunities to drive meaningful, long-term change. Placing the human at the center of the experience, we are dedicated to exploring these new possibilities to build the future through design, enhancing everyday experiences.
Modularity will transition from a feature that we have usually seen in the workplace to one we come home to –– modular in this specific context meaning that there is a predetermined system that allows for flexibility. For example, a living room may seamlessly convert into a gym and an office may transform into a bedroom, all with a great deal of ease. To create a sense of balance, designers may see a demand for additional secluded areas in case of necessary isolation that can also be used for various needs when not in use.
From a layout standpoint, designers will begin to determine the use of a space by considering all potential uses right from the start. Modularity will play a key role in this survey, as it will provide the flexibility for the home to meet the changing needs of its inhabitants. As we’ve been experiencing over the past few months in response to the global pandemic, our personal and work lives can drastically change virtually overnight. The shift in priorities in the home has encouraged us all to reconsider what we truly need and want in our spaces. For example, dedicated work from home spaces will certainly prevail in the post-COVID world.
In terms of specific furniture products that offer flexibility in the space, there are many well-designed modular furniture options currently on the market that are sold in pre-made units, but can then be modified and restructured to fit any type of room. There are also robotic or automated furniture systems that can transform or create more space as needed to match the way we live, work, eat, relax, and exercise in our homes.
Cyrela Riserva Golf, is one of the latest multi-family residential projects located in Brazil. We designed the model unit for this residential building and some of the aspects of modularity that adhere to this notion. The design team placed the gathering place — the ‘creative hub’— at the center of the unit, with the suites, living areas and bedrooms located on the periphery, in order to maximize the surrounding views. Using biophilic partitions and transitional wooden walls, the layout of each area is defined by multiple, functional zones that create intimate ‘destinations,’ enhancing privacy in the open-plan space. Every section of the space is flexible and can be easily transitioned for various uses.