How Coronavirus Could Impact Architectural Design

The coronavirus pandemic has the entire world retreating to the refuge of their houses. States across the country are under strict stay-home orders, and many companies have resorted to remote options. The unprecedented degree of isolation has many re-thinking the notion of “home.”

While many are cooped up inside, some are taking it upon themselves to finish remodeling projects around their homes. interviewed architects to find out how they think the pandemic may shape the future of architecture.

Ancapa Architecture founder Dan Weber says the notion of a home office will become more important.

“Some [employers] may find that they only need half as much space as they did before, and that they only need a physical office for staff meetings and in-person client meetings…This health crisis could possibly have a long-term effect on how important a home office—or at least a working nook—is in residential design.”

The pandemic has been especially difficult for homeowners who do not have a designated office space. CNN highlighted some workers who have converted their closets, kitchens and even bathtubs into make-shift work spaces.

Remote workers need a space that can accommodate a desk with a computer, keypad and mouse on top, and room for files and other supplies would be handy too. Will future homes have a more pronounced, separated space to fulfill these needs? And will this pandemic help employers realize the most important functions of the working “office?”

Architect Maziar Behrooz suggests that with more time being spent in the home, residents will crave utility over luxury, and opt for spaces that are more useful than they are aesthetic.

As the pandemic continues to grow across the country, only time will tell how COVID-19 will affect the future of architecture.


ICC vs UpCodes

The International Code Council has filed suit against San Francisco based company UpCodes.

UpCodes is a software firm that is utilizing the ICC’s building codes in an AI program which helps architects review their plans in comparison to the building codes. Architects can upload the plan models and the program will flag areas in the design that are not up to code, saving valuable time and money when it comes to design errors. While the program is not fool-proof, many say that the low cost makes it worth the investment if it catches even one costly error.

According to the Architect’s Newspaper, UpCodes believes their use of the codes are fair, as there is precedent that once copyrighted material becomes law it passes into the public domain. Court cases dating as far back as 1980 have been cited by UpCodes founder in defense of their use of the codes as public domain material.

The ICC argues differently, however, citing that “loss of copyright could impair code development” (ArchPaper). The ICC is a non-profit organization, and the codes are developed essentially by volunteers from multiple industries. The Code Council recoups the cost of the production of the codes through sales of code books, as well as training and consulting programs. Their claim is that they make the codes transparently available, whether online or in print form, and that UpCodes should not be utilizing the codes in order to turn a profit.

Essentially, these two companies are on opposite sides of the same coin. They both want to ensure that buildings are being built up to code and are therefore safe for the public. UpCodes feels the ICC has a monopoly on the printing of building codes, while the ICC feels their control over the codes is important to the integrity of the code itself. Time will tell which side prevails, as the decision now lies with the courts.

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Renowned Architect Philip G. Freelon Passed Away July 9th

Architect Philip G. Freelon passed away at his home on July 9th, 2019 from Lou Gehrig’s disease, otherwise known as amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He was 66.

Freelon was an architect noted for his work on several high profile buildings including “the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson” (NYTimes).

Freelon was passionate about increasing diversity in the architectural field, according to an article with The Undefeated—he spent time speaking in schools with high minority populations, and he established the Freelon Fellowship in 2016 to provide a marginalized student financial aid to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Additionally, many of the buildings he and his firm have designed have been notable buildings in traditionally black neighborhoods, from museums to bus shelters.

Early in his career, Freelon knew what inspired him. He didn’t want to “design prisons, strip malls or casinos,” he told The Undefeated: “The work that excited me were schools, libraries and similar projects that positively impacted the community.” Undoubtedly, his work and ideals will live on in the communities he served, providing future inspiration for generations to come.

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Detroit Revitalization

In 2013, Detroit became the largest municipality in the country to ever have filed for bankruptcy. Nearly 7 years later, city leaders are bringing the city back from destruction: one revitalization project at a time.

While the city still has many problems, ranging from abandoned buildings to infrastructure issues, city leaders have begun implementing initiatives to revitalize the city. Big on the docket: city planning. According to an article in The Architect’s Newspaper, Maurice Cox, architect and former Charlottesville mayor, has developed a team of “36 planners, architects, urban designers, and landscape designers” billed as a think tank to reignite the city of Detroit—preserving existing culture while rebuilding infrastructure in a fresh and vibrant way that will encourage investment and draw new populations to the city.

Cox and his team are determined to harness Detroit’s high levels of community engagement, taking advice gleaned from town halls and other resident inputs to achieve their goals. Many of the team’s initiatives have focused on areas with low population density that are surrounded by higher population-dense areas. Their plans have included a new bike/pedestrian loop through median-income neighborhoods, neighborhood re-designs, and building incentives throughout the city.

In the spirit of preserving Detroit traditions, developers have been given double density allowances if they are able to preserve the architectural facades of buildings while re-designing the interiors. This plan is one of many ways that city planners are trying to encourage developers to keep the unique landscape of Detroit in tact while providing new and improved spaces for residential and commercial use.

Another initiative being put into place by developers Fitz Forward, is a complete overhaul of the Fitzgerald neighborhood, where over 300 properties will be revitalized. By remodeling some homes and beautifying vacant lots with parks and meadows, the developers seek to draw targeted populations to the neighborhood, thus revitalizing the area for current residents as well. Fixing up run down properties and drawing in new tenants helps home owners currently in the area by bringing up property prices and making the area more secure.

These types of projects show forward thinking on the city planner’s part: by determining the needs of current and future citizens alike, they are aiming to use design as well as innovation to heal the city. Both strengths and weaknesses abound in Detroit, but Cox and his team are working hard to “provoke a new kind of urban revitalization: one in harmony with nature and existing cultures, [and] informed by the urban progress made over the last few decades.” (ArchPaper)

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Pepperdine’s Architecture And Fire Safety

Pepperdine has developed a shelter-in-place policy with close collaboration with the Los Angeles County Fire Department that allows students to remain on campus for a range of disasters, including the Woolsey Fire that hit California last fall.

The policy was developed after a close encounter with a wild fire in 1985 and has been implemented for every fire since 1993. Another key reason that Pepperdine took more preventative measures was how close they are to the Pacific Coast Highway. If Malibu residents are ordered an evacuation, gridlock becomes a big issue especially since a lot of students may not have vehicles.

Pepperdine’s best defense against wild fires is the campus design itself. Its architect was William Pereira, who was based in Los Angeles. Pereira was commissioned to create a master plan for Malibu in 1965, but the plan was never made public. Instead he was able revisit his ideas with Pepperdine years later when they gave him the opportunity.

Curbed describes the campus as “Mediterranean modern: angular cast-concrete volumes situated around wide concrete plazas with spectacular ocean vistas.” The campus structures make good use of fire-resistant decorative materials like glass and ceramic. Even the shape of the buildings with steep Spanish-tile rooflines helps ensure that fire won’t get trapped beneath the eaves. Of Pepperdine’s 830 acres—500 acres have no structure. Pereira’s vision for the campus included dense clustering of buildings to maintain open spaces. He also preserved a meadow and designed a water infrastructure to recycle waste water and store it on site.

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Architectural Professions: Constraining Innovation

In the 20th century, Architects began to shift the perception of what it means to be an Architect. Previously art, design, and construction were performed by the local artist. As the times changed the ego of the Architect began to expand. It wasn’t until 1958 that the UK established its elitist Architectural education system. The system in 2018 has yet to see any major changes and remains un-evolved. This way of teaching has led to “standard” practices in design from door handles to entire layouts. What used to be artistic splendor has turned into the opposite of innovation: bland enovation.

Enovation occurs when an Architectural practice loses its “spark” by using “standard” concepts. Once something designed has been tried and tested to work it becomes the standard. Architects sacrifice their creativity for efficiency. Isn’t the best part of design taking a risk and creating something new? Something fantastic and novel? The fear of rejection from planners and losing the commission has become the bane of Architecture. Creating whimsical and ground-breaking buildings have fallen victim to the fear of risk.

Successful organizations stick to their once-triumphant strategies, even as the world changes around them, constraining innovation. Firms fail because they keep making the same choices they made when they became successful. To counter this, firms are bringing in other specialists such as designers, landscape professionals, inventors, and urbanists. This will hopefully encourage Architects to broaden their horizons, stray from the traditional and add interdisciplinary design to their resumes. Collaboration with new modes of thinking and innovating across disciplines will create dynamic dialogues and bring us into a new era of architecture and design.