We all wonder how COVID-19 will change our lives and habits and whether we will return to our old normal. Confined to our houses, we are also more aware of the space we share and the limitations of our homes, and we reflect on how they could be more pleasant, comfortable, safe and healthy. Houzz.com spoke to architects in Spain, Italy and France —countries that are all currently on lockdown — to get their thoughts on how the coronavirus pandemic will change the home of the future.
“Taking into account the circumstances in which we find ourselves and the data we get every day, it seems reasonable to think that this period of confinement is going to repeat itself and, possibly, change our way of thinking and planning domestic spaces,” says Spanish architect Gonzalo Pardo, director of Gon Architects
Homes Will Have Versatile and Multifunctional Spaces
The architects we spoke to emphasized versatility, multifunctionality and transformation. Thus, for Pardo “houses must be transformable,” while French architect Frédéric Ganichot notes that “this crisis will accentuate the already existing tendency to design modular spaces.”
Multifunctional spaces make more sense in an era when we do so many things from home, whether it’s work or exercise. Thanks to the lockdowns, features and equipment developed for gyms, “such as exercise bikes, dumbbells and yoga mats, are likely to be brought back into your home,” Pardo says.
However, we’re likely to see the greatest emphasis on multifunctionality “in the inclusion of more spaces enabled for remote work, from independent rooms to rooms that are reconfigurable depending on the time of day,” Pardo says.
We Will Value Connections Between Indoors and Out
“Terraces and rooftops will be planned to be continuous with adjoining areas, shaping indoor-outdoor living rooms, bedrooms with private patios,” says Javier San Juan, founder of Lado Blanco Architects in Madrid.
Ganichot agrees. “Interiors in homes will increasingly turn into exterior spaces,” he says.
Italian architect Tommaso Giunchi goes even further. He says he has friends and clients who affirm that “they will never again live in a house that does not have at least a small outdoor space.”
Pardo also believes that roofs will become more important and that they will be “bastions of community freedom.”
In the same vein, architect Moisés Royo, founder of Muka Arquitectura in Madrid, thinks it’s important to set a minimum for the amount of green space available to every apartment house, which wouldn’t count toward the sale or rental price of the property or the profitability of the development.
In Spain, new builds in large cities often include a terrace. However, Royo believes these spaces are insufficient, and he sees neighborhoods in city centers, built in the last century or earlier, posing the greatest problem. “[Here] the width of the streets and the orientation of the houses make it impossible to guarantee minimum daily hours of sunlight for each inhabitant.”
It’s crucial to allow modifications to the structure of such neighborhoods “to accommodate outdoor areas for buildings without increasing the constructed area,” Royo says.
Some of the architects we surveyed said they believe that the true urban revolution of the 21st century won’t be keeping vehicles out of city centers, but rather this guarantee of green space for every apartment block in the most central neighborhoods.
How Architecture Can Curb the Spread of Viruses
Cities are contagion hot spots and population density is a huge factor. With this in mind, Royo cites a number of issues that can be addressed to stop the spread of viruses like this one in the future.
“First, it is important to point out that sooner rather than later we will only open windows when we want to clean the outside of the glass,” Royo says. “There are already mechanical ventilation systems that guarantee air flow 24 hours a day with very low levels of CO2, and that also eliminate harmful particles in the air, as well as viruses transmitted through water droplets.”
We all hear a lot of advice on what to do to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and one common recommendation is to remove your shoes before entering the home. Thus, Royo says, homes should be designed with a space just after the entrance from the street or landing, “where you can take off your shoes as soon as you enter.”
“This should be followed by another area for hanging coats and other outerwear (hats, scarves, umbrellas, etc.). These spaces do not have to be large — they can be adapted to the size of the house.
“And this solution probably also means doing away with corridors — due to the terrible division of space within homes — to reallocate their space to these anterooms.”
Materials are another factor that could help curb the spread of viruses. “It is important that surfaces are easy to clean and that in some spaces they even repel dirt. It is also important that architects work on creating details that have clean forms and are easy to maintain,” San Juan says.
Finally, several of the professionals we interviewed suggested that common areas should also be rethought. Royo believes that technology has a role to play in making such spaces safer and preventing the transfer of contagions through contact with surfaces. He suggests that doors with facial recognition and voice-controlled elevators, for example, will reduce our use of buttons and other manual controls.
We Need Homes That Make Us Feel Good
Pardo believes that domestic spaces “should be more playful, idle and pleasant, to keep the greatest number of family members entertained.”
There’s no denying that a pandemic like this one creates a lot of pessimism, but there is also a silver lining. “This may be controversial, but this crisis is going to bring about many good things,” San Juan says. “For example, the values of being together, of caring for your neighbors, of relating to others are being rediscovered; also the value of a good workspace, of relaxation, well-decorated and illuminated common spaces that respond to our tastes and emotions.”
Being comfortable at home is essential now, and in this sense “the intervention of a professional who collaborates with you will help you plan new spaces, thinking about how you live and what you need,” San Juan says. “We work with emotional architecture (neuroarchitecture) or how the built space affects cognition. The spaces that surround us condition us.”