Challenges of designing a city for a post pandemic world

After going through various research papers and articles on this subject, I had a strange realization. Ironically, the design of a city for a post pandemic world is akin to what an ideal city should have been in the first place!

While framing ideas and visualizing a city for post pandemic life, the designer should focus on:

  • Creating an inclusive, healthy, and equitable layout, reinforcing the need to put humans and nature before automobiles and infrastructure.
  • The concept of ‘physical distancing’ versus ‘social distancing’. People will always need to assemble but they need to be able to meet safely in the post pandemic era.
  • Supporting a return to thriving post pandemic businesses. Restaurants can be encouraged to reimagine outdoor seating with al fresco dining.
  • Creating more functional green spaces by repurposing derelict and underused land.
  • Embracing the best practices of road safety and public health to make pedestrian-oriented cities.
  • Amplifying the existing characteristics of the surrounding areas to build a unique city rather than concrete clones.
  • Using reusable yet durable and sustainable material with strategies in place for future disassembling and reconstruction.
  • Optimizing resources and time spent on executing the project.
  • Designing a warm, engaging, and safe environment.
  • Preserving biodiversity and wildlife.
  • Collaborating with artists to design clean, helpful messaging (in appropriate languages for the community) throughout the city.

New Urbanization strategies and their offshoots like the idea of a Fifteen Minute City are more important than ever for the post pandemic world. People should be able to access most daily needs within fifteen minutes of their home. The design of the city must promote amenities in local neighborhoods to reduce commute distance and time. These possibilities are already being explored in cities like Paris and Milan.

One of the first and most notable projects in this direction is the Stapleton neighborhood in Denver, Colorado. It was rezoned to become one of the largest mixes of residential and commercial areas in Denver with an emphasis on public places. But the very unfortunate reality of how Stapleton has been used by its residents is an eye opener. Stapleton now has much higher vehicle speeds, fewer bicyclists, and fewer pedestrian transit users.

This outcome only highlights the importance of monitoring, post the design and execution stages. We, at Aligned Studios have always placed a premium on monitoring how our projects perform. Understanding how the user interprets the design is essential. This provides invaluable inputs to our design team for their future work as well as excellent feedback to our existing client base.

There are a lot of people who have moved away from densely populated cities to suburbs and smaller towns as the pandemic has allowed the liberty of remote work. And having the leisure of space and closeness to nature is enticing enough not to return to dense neighborhoods. Unlike organically evolved town spaces, these spaces created by New Urbanists have been criticized by many for looking like movie sets. The architects and landscape designers who are planning cities for the post pandemic world need to rack their brains to reimagine cities for such people.

In a recent address to the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, Richard Florida, Professor at the University of Toronto and author of The New Urban Crisis, sums up what we really need to understand about the post-pandemic world:

“I think what we are going through is a great urban reset and it’s not just the pandemic. It’s a series of overlapping crises,” he said. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime, no, once-in-a-century opportunity, to build our communities, our cities, back better. We are beginning a fundamental reset in the way we work and the way we live and the way we shop and how we go about our everyday lives.”

What is the future of design with automation in construction?

Does automation take away from the individuality of design? Do automatic vehicles take away your driving skills? Do predictive keyboards take away your writing skills? Of course, the answer is no, and in fact, automation in construction can be a tool that enhances design.

The truth is that automation in the construction industry only enhances the toolbox and the genius of the human mind which has been and is the essential difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary. An enhanced toolbox unshackles the human mind beyond the mundane and sets it free to explore new horizons.

Experimentation, without having to pay a price in time and involvement becomes a real possibility. The mind is set free to explore fearlessly as failure doesn’t cost much either in terms of money or time.

The work of Gramazio Kohler Research is a testament to this, as displayed by their augmented bricklaying project at Kitrvs winery. They built a façade from 13596 individually rotated and tilted bricks, entirely assembled on-site with an augmented reality fabri¬cation interface. It wasn’t a fully automated process though, as using robotics in architecture has barriers like limited mobility and dexterity and relative difficulty in handling malleable building material. Thus, researchers from Gramazio Kohler Research collaborated with, a spinoff recently launched by the Robotic Systems Lab of ETH Zürich, to devel¬op the custom made dynamic optical guidance system. They reintroduced craftsmen into a digital fabrication process. By optically instructing masons with tailored digital information through a custom augmented reality user interface, a direct connection to the digital design model was established.

Computational design was deployed in tandem with the skills of human craftsmen, showing how digital fabrication can be successfully used to create a unique design that is still distinct. The parametric façade – semi-transparent – would have been difficult to achieve using traditional construction techniques, but the automation in the design process provided new opportunities to create a unique design. Through this augmented reality interface, the masons no longer depended on physical templates but could work with enhanced spatial precision while maintaining their craft and expertise in mortar handling.

Other works of Gramazio Kohler Research also show that automation in construction does not necessarily impede the individuality of design. It is instead an asset that can be used in tandem with human craftsmanship. In fact, it can be an overall benefit – as designs and concepts previously limited by human ability can be realized by the aid of automation architecture.

Slowly, 3-D printing and automated-construction sites are becoming a reality. Pre-fabrication is taking modular design to a new level. And it is the brilliance of the human mind and its need to create that is doing this. So, what’s the catch?

The roadblock, in the truest sense, arises out of having a mental block against learning new skills. This manifests in putting forward the thought process that labels technology as responsible for thwarting or even killing individual creativity. We must clearly understand that creativity is an output of the mind and any tool, old or new, hi -tech or manual, is only a medium to bring it to fruition.

All creative fields like film making, photography, animation, art, and architecture have undergone a sea of change thanks to technology. There is cost reduction; speed; easy experimentation; and significant enhancement in quality. All because technology has come to the aid of the individual creative human mind.

At Aligned Studios, hiring is an exhaustive process geared to attract the best talent available globally. Having said that, great emphasis is placed on constant technology upgrades and in-house training modules to constantly upgrade human talent to work in tandem with state-of-the-art technology. A conscious effort goes into encouraging technology aided individual creative efforts in sync with team objectives to deliver end goals. Rather than inhibit individual creative skills, technology only goes to enhance creative expression.

Share Article



5 Architecture and Design podcasts you need to listen to in 2021

It is remarkable how podcasts have found their way into our daily lives and routines. Whether it is listening to one on your morning walk or on the drive while running errands, here are a few architecture and design podcasts you need to listen to.

Architecture is a fascinating amalgamation of art and science with admirers ranging from professionals with successful practices in the field to curious design enthusiasts. You might be looking to deepen your professional knowledge or listen to captivating stories of architectural history or catch up on discussions that affect the community. Look no further, as your search ends today with our list of widely acclaimed recommendations.

Buckminster Fuller said, “ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.” This beautifully produced show took inspiration from these words and has engaged art, design, and architecture enthusiasts in exploring the unseen and overlooked aspects of design from different disciplines, for over a decade now. 

This weekly podcast has come a long way from 4-minute-long snippets to a half an hour show curated to jostle creative minds. A weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture, each episode is intriguing. Host Roman Mars uncovers hidden stories of our shared environments and everyday design that often go, unnoticed and impact our daily lives. 

Listen to the podcast here

With over 170,000 unique downloads since its inception in 2017, Architecture Talk remains one of the best architecture podcasts in the industry. The host, Dr. Vikramaditya ‘Vikram’ Prakash walks you through issues in contemporary architecture and architectural thinking. Guests ranging from architects to physicists, share insights on design that will keep you hooked.

Prakash, a professor of Architecture at the University of Washington said he always felt energized by discussions in seminars and at conferences of “impromptu topics at the edges of the known, discussed and well-traversed.” But such conversations, he said, “usually dissolved in time, unable to survive the scrutiny and surveillance of the published work.” This eventually gave rise to compelling, bi-monthly conversations that intend to engage architects and people from other disciplines engaged in theories around architecture.

Listen to the podcast here

If you plan to lead an architectural firm or are currently invested in growing one right now, then this is the best architecture business podcast for you! Architects, designers, and consultants are interviewed by California architect, Enoch Sears about the ins-and-outs of running a successful design practice. Business strategies are discussed on some of the most sought after queries that design entrepreneurs have viz. how to create a profitable practice, elevating the client experience and much more.

This weekly interview series ensures you are up to date on tips and secrets which come in handy while running your practice and connecting to professionals with successful businesses.

Listen to the podcast here

Simply put, About Buildings + Cities is a podcast about buildings and cities. If you enjoy a conversational banter around art and architectural history, then you are in for a ride with hosts Luke Jones and George Gingell. From time to time, contemporary stories are touched upon, and these stimulate your vivid imagination while you give each episode a listen!

These 80+ episodes are of varying lengths from a few minutes long to over 90 minutes, depending on the stories being traced in distant history and contemporary times.

Don’t miss out on the multi-episode series on the spell-binding work of Le Corbusier and Zaha Hadid; those will surely mesmerise you!

Listen to the podcast here

Our final recommendation is a vividly engaging weekly architecture podcast for anyone looking to get inspired and grow their practice, through the eyes of architect Mark R. LePage. EntreArchitect explores the everyday life of an architect and offers key business strategies in areas that range from inspiration and productivity to planning and financial management. Passionate design professionals are interviewed, and their personal journeys are decoded to understand what sparked their love for architecture. While the rest of the EntreArchitect website does require a yearly fee, the podcasts are free to all listeners. 

Listen to the podcast here

It can be tricky to stay up to date and on your toes when it comes to fields as vast and dynamic as architecture and design. This is where podcasts allow you the flexibility of acquiring knowledge, even while you are working. Listen in regularly to stay relevant and get your daily dose of inspiration. Contact us to know more!