It is clear the coronavirus is already having a profound impact on today’s “built” world. This is not the first time a pandemic has forced architecture and city planning to evolve. Past pandemics like Yellow Fever, Spanish Flu and Polio changed standards for the design of public spaces that reflected a new way of life that included greater personal space. While the initial expectation was meant to deal with the immediate crisis, many temporary changes became permanent over time.
Today, COVID’s unknowns sparked some knee jerk reactions in the beginning. Projects were put on hold. People asked themselves, what am I comfortable with when I shop, dine, and take my family out in public. Business owners had to think about what this meant for their retail stores and restaurants, not just now, but into the future.
“This isn’t the time to sit around and wait,” said Keith Fisher, Fisher Architecture. “As a firm, we are always looking for the next hot spot to prepare for. As architects, we keep a close eye on market sector trends and adapt our designs to meet the needs of any given community. Our public sector will stay strong throughout COVID because the projects are relevant and necessary to get communities back on their feet and get people back to work. Infrastructure projects like traffic circles and public spaces will be at the top of the list.”
In the meantime, retail stores and restaurants are being forced to demonstrate how they plan on keeping people safe, as they re-open. Air quality will not be overlooked, open floor plans and even areas where customers will be able to “see” the outdoors at all times.
“A lot of it is perception,” added Fisher. “People thrive in spaces with light, air, and views. Perceived safety goes a long way in helping individuals make decisions to venture out and rejoin the public world.”
It is important to map out a plan for what a well-designed outdoor dining space will look like and how it will impact the flow of patrons and staff. Don’t forget about roof space. Some properties can safely consider roof top real estate for enhanced outdoor dining experiences. Now is the time to figure out what that mix will look like for a business, regarding capacity, operations, and physical space, inside and outside.
“Now that the game plan for recovery is somewhat in place, I think it would benefit business owners if city officials provided temporary approvals for permits for the use of public space. Think about restaurants like Evo and Mojo’s here in Salisbury. The designs we worked up for them years ago have been pushed to the forefront due to COVID restrictions.”
Fisher Architecture is already working on creating unique and cost-effective solutions to restaurant designs so owners can be ahead of the next “unknown.” For example, we are actively analyzing the selection of materials to better understand surfaces that food is prepared on. We are also always looking at ways to make the circulation path of patrons and employees efficient. The pandemic has certainly added the challenge of designing to allow indoor and outdoor dining spaces to easily meet necessary social distancing requirements.
The silver lining is that design will compensate for whatever changes need to be made to help people feel safe. From beer gardens and garage doors to waiting areas, vast kitchens, windows, and employee spaces, we know, now more than ever, open space will play a major role in design. Some are wondering how much of an investment they should make for the short term. We tend to look at it from a different perspective – how can we make changes that will turn into long term advantages in the future?
Principal, Licensed Architect
Licensed in MD, DE, PA, VA, DC, NJ, FL