By Duo Dick­in­son

The Norwalk Hour - - THE ROAD AHEAD: -

Seis­mic forces change ar­chi­tec­ture. COVID-19 will change the way hu­mans think about build­ings — just as those other seis­mic cul­tural shifts shaped how ar­chi­tects shaped build­ings.

The in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion made new build­ing types sim­ply be­cause they were needed. Af­ter World War II, tech­nol­ogy over­whelmed fac­tory-cen­tric cities and the masspro­duced au­to­mo­bile and mass­made Eisen­hower fed­eral high­way sys­tem cre­ated subur­bia.

In the last two gen­er­a­tions, world pop­u­la­tion dou­bled, and the world has be­come fully “in­ter­na­tional.” In 1966, peo­ple flew a com­bined 500 million miles on air­planes, a fig­ure that mul­ti­plied 12 times by 2016.

Then “New Ur­ban­ism” evolved and of­fered as a way to undo of­ten dis­as­trous ef­fects of ur­ban re­newal, where the buzz­word “walk­a­bil­ity” in­vited den­sity. Now den­sity is a lead­ing fac­tor where COVID-19 is the most dev­as­tat­ing.

This un­in­tended con­se­quence has greatly alerted the ar­chi­tec­ture com­mu­nity. As­so­ci­a­tion of the Col­le­giate Schools of Ar­chi­tec­ture held a cy­ber meet­ing in mid-April: “The Great Transforma­tion: Re­design­ing

the World Post COVID-19,” where pro­fes­sors from all across Amer­ica held a 90-minute dis­cus­sion to “sug­gest seeds for a pre­ferred world.” The topic “Den­sity and Mo­bil­ity” evolved to “Den­sity and De­sign” and “Den­sity and Hous­ing.”

“A most un­for­tu­nate out­come from the COVID-19 cri­sis could be that it may be used as an ar­gu­ment against den­sity and cities,” says Michael Lyk­oudis, for­mer dean at the Notre Dame School of Ar­chi­tec­ture. “That is al­ready hap­pen­ing in some dis­cus­sions re­gard­ing how we live to­gether. That ar­gu­ment will be that this ‘straw per­son’ is used to fur­ther erode what is left of the idea of in­sep­a­ra­ble con­nec­tion between civ­i­liza­tions and cities . ... Without cites we will not be able man­age the com­ing del­uge re­sult­ing from global heat­ing and the col­lat­eral disas­ters that it will bring.”

The ur­gency of these re­sponses con­veys the lit­er­ally mortal dan­ger that two cen­tury’s worth of ris­ing pop­u­la­tion and ex­plod­ing cities have fa­cil­i­tated. The de­sire of ar­chi­tects to vi­sion the largest mean­ings and con­se­quences of this in­stant cri­sis is un­der­stand­able. In­ter­na­tional con­nec­tion, mit­i­ga­tion of car­bon cre­ation, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and so­cial eco­nom­ics may be­come the baby thrown out with the bath­wa­ter.

CSA Images / Getty Images/CSA Images RF

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