Architects and designers contemplate the post-coronavirus future

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The coronavirus is touching many aspects of society, and the world of architecture and design is no different. 

Throughout history, pandemics and other health issues have led to the transformation of our spaces. For example, villas were built on the banks of the Schuylkill River in the 18th century for the wealthy to escape illnesses and the summer heat.

Philadelphia-based architecture firm KieranTimberlake is behind the design of Dilworth Park here in Philadelphia and the U.S. Embassy in London. Co-founder James Timberlake noted one thing we're learning is many of us can work and learn from home.

"I can see where clientele; colleges, universities, corporations and others are really gonna question the amount of space they need," he said. "Because we now know that we can work in dispersed environments and work quite creatively."

As for existing buildings, Timberlake says automation will be key. Why press a button to get an elevator if we don’t have to? And we’ll have to think: how do we keep our distance and not overcrowd an elevator to begin with?

"There’s already technology of double-decking and triple-decking elevators. I think you’ll see some of that come into play with newer high rise buildings, hotels," he speculated. "In order to carry eight people 35 floors up in the air, do we have to all of a sudden start thinking about doubling the size of those kind of containers?"

And Timberlake thinks many nursing homes, hit hard by the coronavirus, may build separate units on their properties.

"Smaller but separated living units where our seniors could be part of our family but nearby," he predicted. "I think we’re gonna see a demand around the country for more of that as we realize that the kind of warehousing strategy of elderly care isn’t a smart move."

Timberlake said his firm is used to tackling complex issues, but this pandemic takes things to a different level.

"The amount of mental space that this is taking up," he shared, "makes me and my colleagues and our staff more tired everyday."