Covid-19, Common practices in design, Virtual meeting, Faisal Vohra, Shweta Balasubramani, Supraja Rao, Shiva Mohan Komaravolu, Vami Koticha, Bibhor Srivastava

Design in the time of a pandemic

A group of architects and designers joined ITP Media Group (India) publishing director Bibhor Srivastava in discussing how Covid-19 is inspiring them to rethink common practices in design

On a Zoom call recently, Bibhor Srivastava (ITP Media Group (India)) was joined by Faisal Vohra (F+S Designs), Shweta Balasubramani (Vistaar Associates), Supraja Rao (Design House by Supraja Rao), Shiva Mohan Komaravolu (Scale Design) and Vami Koticha (sP+a). Vohra and Balasubramani provided us with insights and highlights from the conversation:

Designers are well equipped to help solve humanity’s most complex problems including that of COVID-19 which has affected life at an unprecedented level since the great wars. Real challenges require real solutions and that is what we face on a daily basis. So can we build positivity and be strong together?

When a group of creative thinkers based in geographically different locations of Hyderabad and Mumbai came together on a zoom call, we were grateful far more than ever for the ability to connect virtually and discuss how the pandemic has affected designers who, despite the uncertainty, shared their hopes for a safer future and a resolve to do what they can as a community.

The lockdown-enforced virtual meeting made us wonder, why did we ever insist on face to face meetings in cities that are unkind with the traffic and ended up just adding to the incessant cacophony of honking? I think that from now on, we will be less wasteful with our time and resources. Who knows, we may even have FaceTime coffee breaks with friends (although I don’t know if we will ever be able to replace a hug virtually!)

Two weeks ago feels like another world, and this crisis is going to change the way we think. For starters, we may end up using products Made in India to beat the supply chain issues that will remain in the near future. We have to be more honest in our choices by using our resources wisely, such as creating designs which will utilise unused materials of an existing site, look at adaptive reuse of buildings before we set out to design new ones. Designing large infrastructure projects such as stadia, airports, public transit systems etc., to convert quickly and efficiently into spaces that cater to public crisis, such as hospital wards, public kitchens, isolation wards, emergency response etc.

Be it homes or offices or commercial spaces, we can create solutions keeping in mind the simple joys we seem to have rediscovered in the last few days. For example, it strikes me now more than never before that homes should be designed for more social & cohabiting qualities that proactively assist in helping inhabitants come together with safety, mental harmony, as well as provide comfortable privacy when required. The joys of listening to music, reading sitting amidst the greens in open spaces, must not be forgotten.

It is also time that designers also look for ways and means to design low-cost collapsible housing that offers security to the more vulnerable portion of our society living on the streets, the migrant floating population and others displaced through wars.

We hope we can continue to keep the spirit of this design attitude. We all chose to enter the domain of design because we wanted to do something for mankind, for human beings and this moment places humanity at its epicentre. This virus is telling us about earth and its equilibrium, our greed and consumption, our need to be fast paced at all times.

It will be a true test of our design thinking abilities to find innovative means to keep distances at public spaces, finding solutions to sanitise effectively, helping governments design new infrastructure at the pace they require and also helping the large immigrant force that bring our creations to reality, to survive these tough times and come back to more hygienic, humane spaces.

Can we, as a community, stand up together and find solutions collectively for all those heroes working in healthcare, distribution systems and enforcement agencies by designing effective systems to coordinate better and act as solution providers to keep that safe distance? The hugs can wait!

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