Starting from this article, Covi/Design will be a little different: we will talk about aspects that should be discussed now, and are not. Together we will try to understand what could happen in the design world, re-reading some articles and touching point by point several interconnected themes, because design exists within a context. There will be no solutions, but many questions, and the contributions of some young designers. The need to make such an article is evident: we can find many interviews with entrepreneurs and personalities from the design world, but nobody is saying anything new, always remaining in his/her own comfort zone.
The pandemic we are experiencing is not the first and will not be the last one, but what should we learn from this crisis? (1) Throughout history, tragedies such as pandemics have also been the engine for positive changes, intellectual and concrete innovations. According to David Herlihy, an example is the medieval black plague which favored innovations such as firearms and the press, replacing respectively the soldiers and the scribal monks, killed by the epidemic. What novelties will this pandemic bring us?
Today’s theme is the house. We have seen how it became something more: first of all an office, but also a bakery and a gym. This change created several problems such as the available space and the livability of the environment, or the internet connection and the possibility of an adequate workstation. In line with our passions, we have customized our homes to imitate as much as possible the life we used to do before the quarantine. In these three months we have therefore tried to reproduce in these spaces services that are generally provided outside our domestic walls. Consequently, the use of space changes, but not dimensions: especially in big cities, many families are forced into few square meters and the presence of the entire household can be a source of great stress.
We can state that if we had to modify existing houses, buildings and structures for virus-related reasons, we would not have the time to finish. Of course, building constructors noticed the problem and took action: Giuseppe Crupi, Abitare co CEO – a real estate company that deals with residential and new construction – said that the construction sites in Milan originally had “an important number of small apartments or apartments that did not include a balcony”. Precisely for this reason they are modifying the lots, also joining two units to guarantee a balcony or spaces dedicated to smartworking (but above all, to sell). But will we have the money to buy a new house?
The luckiest will move, but who lives in poor neighborhoods, densely populated and far from services, without the possibility of buying a house or a larger apartment? how will they survive in a space that becomes a cage? Unfortunately, design and architecture are not the main problem, but the real estate market, the municipality, landlords… let’s take Milan as an example, (2) sociology says that in order to be sustainable, a rental must commit no more than 28% of a person’s income. In Milan in 2019 people spent almost 50% of their salary to be able to afford a two-room apartment. It is not just about design and architecture.
The topic becomes more interesting if we think about these disciplines: for example shared services, such as a lift, stairs, etc., are the first causes of the spread of a virus. During the SARS a group of students designed an interesting solution, the self-sanitizing handle via UV treatment. Other solutions could be specific nanotechnology treatments for surfaces, but unfortunately they are very expensive and not everyone can afford them. How could the way we move from common to private spaces change? There is one last note to add: whoever has a large space will also have more problems to keep it sanitized, unlike those who live in a small one. For someone a studio flat could become almost preferable to an open-plan apartment, but how will our interiors change?
If we think about the kitchen, the introduction of indoor gardening and self-production could be interesting. We are not new to this kind of products, but this crisis taught us to understand the value of a healthy meal, made with natural ingredients and perhaps even having fun. An interesting thought borrowed from Giulia Soldati is, what if we start producing at home again? Not only the final dish, but the raw material. We are not only talking about vegetable gardens but perhaps about preparations such as milk, beer or the cultivation of spirulina algae. As this quarantine has shown us, to be dependent on a supermarket may not always be the best solution.
Smart working is another interesting challenge: it is not just about moving work at home, but also about finding the right harmony with our space, used up to now with other functions and other purposes. We asked Giuseppe Arezzi what he thinks about the future of our houses and he shared interesting reflections with WeVux: as this moment is teaching us, perhaps the solution is not the production of new hybrid/multifunctional pieces of furniture, but our adaptability. The office now consists of the living-room table and our bedside table lamp, or the kitchen counter and the dining room chair. The gym is composed by the innumerable objects that we already own, such as plastic and sand bottles used as weights, or the structure of the building itself with steps and ramps for walking and exercises.
Persisting stubbornly in looking for a new typology of furniture is a symptom of a problem: the need to produce new things at the expense of the environment. The best solution remains to adapt to this situation and take advantage of this slowness to reflect, to think.
As aforementioned, we have not presented any solutions but we hope that in these words you will find some stimuli to go beyond the usual interviews. As suggested by the conversation with Giuseppe Arezzi, the most important thing now remains to stop and think, as consumers but also as designers and producers.
Speaking of the latter, next Monday we will talk about companies and designers by re-reading some interviews. What do they think about this situation? How are they reacting to this crisis?