– By Dinesh Panwar, Principal Architect, Urbanscape Architects
Over the last month, most of the world has come to a standstill, and our ways of living, working, and socializing have experienced drastic transformations. As architects, we are facing innumerable challenges. Construction processes are halted with non-availability of labor, coordination to get tasks completed remotely is a strenuous activity. A short-notice announcement, the lockdown has come with its own set of trials. While this period is allowing us to brainstorm novel ideas, design better, and ideate across a larger spectrum, the targets of deadlines and timelines have failed. With an immediate impact in terms of lack of skilled labor, budgets, economic turmoil, etc., the design and construction industry is going through significant suffrage. Once the lockdown is lifted, it will still be a long-winded journey towards getting things back to normal. Labour issues, procurement of raw materials, and in some cases, delays in getting finished goods ordered from overseas – all of these will remain pressing concerns.
As for the future, a substantial change in the perspective towards the design industry is expected. Hopefully, the industrial sector will get a push and be encouraged. It is foreseeable to have the construction activities off-site with newer construction techniques and precedence to pre-engineered and pre-fabricated structures. Machine-based processing might become the latest norm of the future. It is now time for architects and designers to consider and focus on housing at the micro-level over planned smart cities and urban centers. We have all been accustomed to living in pigeon holes which, as we can already experience, will be consequential. Public spaces such as malls, movie theatres, etc. are swarming with people – because most homes are not what they need to be. Housing, in our country, lacks the basics of habitability. The design of social spaces has always been given precedence over the design of private and personal spaces; the perception needs immediate alteration. The focus should be to design quality spaces, irrespective of their locations. Infrastructure should be planned in a manner where someone staying 100 km away from the city center can also easily access it. Pertaining to the design of cities – a more conscious effort is needed towards the design and planning of individual spaces, now that social distancing has become the need of the hour.
On battling the pandemic together, apart from robust infrastructure and specialized disaster management agencies, people from every field must volunteer to handle such crisis. A communal intervention is needed in times like these. Mandatory, collective efforts must be made from people from all walks of life. Each profession may have something to contribute to combating such a situation.