Primarily identified at the end of 2019 in China, severe acute respiratory syndrome, also known as SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, or the coronavirus, has rapidly spread across the globe and affected almost all countries, industries, and people’s lives. The purpose of this work is to examine how the global pandemic has already influenced the architecture and interior design industry, what new trends have emerged, and what specialists in this sphere will be more valuable. In addition, the paper will investigate how the outbreaks of infectious disease have influences architecture and design throughout history for a better understanding of the current situation.
How did Previous Pandemics Impact Architecture, Structural Engineering, and Indoor Design
It goes without saying that the pandemic caused by the spread of the coronavirus is not the first pandemic, and it will not be the last one. Throughout history, illnesses have always impacted almost all spheres of human activity, and interior design is not an exclusion. Thus, a considerable number of modern design features in people’s homes and public facilities were invented or popularized due to previous outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as typhoid, cholera, Spanish flu of 1918, and tuberculosis. In general, the understanding of the connection between infectious diseases and interior design that should respond to emerged challenges is necessary for the development of appropriate strategies of minimization and prevention in the future.
In general, the major changes in architecture and structural engineering under the influence of disease implied the rejection of clogged spaces and the introduction of clear ones. In response to cholera, yellow fever, and bubonic plague, large and small cities opened wide public spaces and boulevards, cleared slums, and introduced the sewage system. Treatment of tuberculosis in specifically designed open-air sanitariums inspired the tendencies of minimalism, modernist buildings, and clean, light, and sun-filled architecture.
According to Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley, the researchers of the phenomenon of quarantine, “we have to return to this kind of medieval spatial response to disease control, which means that architecture and urban design suddenly become medical” (Kloncz, 2020, para. 2). In other words, throughout history, people have reshaped their man-made environment in order to control the spread of infections. In the present day, it is difficult to imagine life in cities without a sewage system. However, the Sanitary Reform Movement that established the basis of indoor plumbing started only in the 1850s when improved microscopy confirmed that microorganisms cause infectious diseases (Rogers, n.d.). As a result, toilets and running water have appeared in the majority of homes, and hand hygiene has been widely promoted.
In addition, in order to minimize contacts, though remain the respectful members of society who support hygiene, a considerable number of people maintained half-bathrooms. They implied a separate sink on houses’ ground floors accessible for delivery workers and guests. If at least one person who had delivered products and visited multiple homes, including these ones where probably infected people live, entered a house and used the owners’ bathroom, the risk of infection would substantially increase. With half-bathrooms, on the one hand, workers were provided with an opportunity to wash hands and prevent infection. On the other hand, tenants could avoid contact with strangers.
Subsequently, due to the outbreaks of infectious diseases, people started to pay particular attention to the affordability of cleaning that could guarantee appropriate results. Thus, interior design has subsequently changed in response to this demand. For instance, in the Victorian era, bathrooms were decorated in the same way as other rooms and were characterized by upholstered furnishings, carpeted floors, and wood walls. However, due to the Sanitary Reform Movement at the beginning of the 20th century, citizens were forced to remove all items that could collect dust and harbor disease-carrying microorganisms (Kloncz, 2020). In the middle of the 1920s, a French architect Le Corbusier wrote “about the importance of minimalism, cleanliness, and hygiene in home design, advocating for built-ins throughout the house, which eventually became the norm” (Yuko, 2020, para. 3).
As a result, carpeting and wood were replaced with linoleum, tile, and porcelain. Later, these surfaces became indispensable not only in bathrooms but in laundry, areas of cooking, subway, and health care as well. In particular, hospitals opted for white tile that has been regarded as a symbol of cleanliness since the movement to spot any dirt and remove it quickly and with ease. In addition, botulism, typhoid, trichinosis, and other foodborne diseases were an additional serious public health concern. That is why restaurants started to adopt white subway tiles in order to create a hospital’s sterile environment and make people feel more comfortable and safe eating there. Moreover, oilcloth and hardwood floors were commonly replaced by linoleum suitable for quick, easy, and effective cleaning.
During the epidemic of tuberculosis at the beginning of the 20th century, when antibiotics were not available, sleeping and cure porches have become highly popular architectural elements as fresh air and sunlight were regarded as the best treatment for this disease (Yuko, 2020). Sleeping porches were traditionally added to houses’ second or third floors when buildings had been already constructed. In turn, cure porches on the first floor provided an opportunity for patients to rest in their beds under the sun within glass-enclosed decks. In addition, under the influence of infectious diseases that were supposed to be cured by sun and air, large windows, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and balconies started to be heavily constructed. In relation to structural engineering and environment construction, this concept of treatment of illnesses has led to Central Park’s construction in New York City, as well.
Impact of the Modern COVID-19 Pandemic
As previous outbreaks of infectious disease have substantially changed people’s lives, the modern pandemic caused by the spread of the coronavirus from China across the globe will not be an exception as well. However, in comparison with pandemics in the past, it may be characterized by several specific features, and the most significant one is the availability of information. At the end of the 19th century, changes were initiated by scientific progress that confirmed the impact of microorganisms on people’s health. In the present day, society is aware of pathogens’ spread and its control and minimization. In addition, with the development of the digital sphere, people may receive any available information related to COVID-19 without leaving their homes. In other words, the average person generally knows about protective equipment, the importance of handwashing, and the transmission of the virus both locally and globally. Moreover, the current pandemic has already influenced behavioral trends, social norms, and economic situations all over the world. It has led to distancing, isolation, distant work, and education. Thus, these characteristics will be definitely reflected in the architecture and interior design in the post-COVID-19 era.
It goes without saying that the coronavirus has already changed the future of architecture and interior design, impacting their key elements, including materials, pricing, and customer communication strategies. First of all, the population’s decreased incomes due to the challenging economic situation affect the majority of design companies – thus, they should not expect surplus capital and multiple opportunities for growth and development. At the same time, restraints frequently trigger productivity, creativity, and the occurrence of new products. Subsequently, in a highly competitive environment, companies will choose what pricing policy to adapt – whether to lower prices considering the risks of failure in the case of customer shortage or to provide an excellent, top-quality service in order to justify remained prices. At the same time, in general, the forecasts for the interior design industry are optimistic (Jow, 2020). It is expected that people will be ready to invest in the reconstruction and furnishing of their apartments more than before, as they have to spend more time inside (Shamaileh, 2021). As a result, the following new trends will emerge:
- Promotion of handwashing and hygiene. This will include the creation of more public restrooms, the implementation of automatic disinfection, and the maintenance of transition zones in private houses to leave clothes and shoes before entering inside.
- Development of smart technologies to minimize contacts. This tendency implies the construction and use of doors, elevators, and light switches that may be activated by smartphone, motion, or voice.
- Rising popularity of antibacterial materials. Similar to the past, in the present day, due to the coronavirus, people pay particular attention to cleanliness and hygiene. In addition, they consider using specific materials that promote sterility and may stop microorganisms’ growth and spread. For example, metals, such as bronzes, brasses, and copper, are regarded as natural antimicrobial materials. They will be massively used in door handles, faucets, and other frequently touched places. Quartz, a non-precious stone, is another popular material in the era of the coronavirus. Surfaces made from it are not only stain, hard, and scratch-resistant but the most sanitary as well. Finally, woods like oak, bamboo, and cork may create a warm look stopping microorganisms and bacteria from growing.
- The creation of separated spaces. The pandemic and related quarantine have already led to people’s refusal of large spaces in favor of small and separate ones that may minimize contacts and the spread of the virus. In addition, as a considerable number of offices and education facilities are closed, distant work and study became essential. Thus, new areas that will be constructed include separate suites for infected family members or guests’ safety, home study areas and office spaces, media or game rooms, and home gyms.
- The ability of interior design to create a sense of safety, provide relaxation, and minimize anxiety. As isolation and social distancing have already led to people’s multiple mental health issues, including depression, stress, and anxiety, living spaces should be reorganized in a way to improve emotional wellbeing. First of all, smart storage, built-in shelving, and de-cluttering will not only prevent bacteria’s growing but emphasize organization and comfort. Light colors and soft materials will create coziness and a sense of security. Moreover, forced to spend time indoors, people value nature more than before. That is why its elements should be implemented in interior design as well through natural colors, large windows and glass walls, and lots of greenery. In addition, in private houses, the design of outdoor space will become highly essential as it will provide the connection with the world. Thus, small yards, balconies, and patios furnished with small dining tables and lounge chairs will be massively constructed just like in the past.
Infectious diseases have always influenced people and almost every aspect of their lives. The outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, Spanish flu of 1918, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, yellow fever, botulism, and trichinosis in different historical periods forced people to reconsider and change their living spaces. Large and small cities opened wide public spaces and boulevards, cleared slums, and introduced the sewage system. Treatment of tuberculosis in specifically designed open-air sanitariums inspired the tendencies of minimalism, modernist buildings, and clean, light, and sun-filled architecture. Wood and textiles in bathrooms and public places were replaced by tiles and linoleum for easier cleaning and sterility.
The modern pandemic caused by the spread of the coronavirus, also known as an acute respiratory syndrome, SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19, is not an exception. In the present day, the major tendencies in architecture, engineering, and interior design include the creation of separate spaces for entertainment, distance study, and work, emphasizing hygiene and handwashing, the use of antibacterial materials, technologies for the absence of contacts, and the creation of a sense of safety and comfort. That is why, in the design industry, those specialists that are responsible for space reshaping, gardening, the implementation of smart technologies, and coloring will be more valuable. In turn, the creation of large spaces and upholstered furniture may lose its actuality.
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Rogers, S. (n.d.). The lasting influence of pandemics on interior design. Dornob.com. Web.
Shamaileh, A. A. (2021). Responding to COVID-19 pandemic: Interior designs’ trends of houses in Jordan. International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare. Web.
Yuko, E. (2020). How previous epidemics impacted home design. Clever. Web.