COVID-19, Architecture, Urban Design, Outdoor Space, Health, Wellness, Housing, Bjarke Ingels, Working from Home, Biophilia
Bjarke Ingels Group
Covid-19 has exposed dramatic problems in how we live and work. But there is a way forward.
When pandemic stay-at-home orders were implemented in March, people in cities around the world were made prisoners in their own apartments. Residents in many buildings designed by the Danish-born architect Bjarke Ingels found themselves spending time on their balconies.
âOne of our first buildings, in Copenhagen, has these very long balconies that are staggered,â Ingels says. There, residents connect with neighbors in a physically distant way. âPeople were sending me videos of âblock partiesâ where everyone was outside, enjoying the sunset and listening to musicâbut safely.â
Ingels isnât the first architect to build a balcony, but heâs made it a motif in his residences, from New York to Taiwan. Incorporating additional outdoor space seems inevitable after the Covid-19 pandemic. And, as the world reassesses offices and urban spaces, Ingels sees an opportunity to fast-track additional ideas and hone the design language heâs been championing for years. âWeâve been spending a big part of Covidâreally all of 2020âlooking at this,â he says.
Itâs not only about outdoor spaces. Ingels wants to change everything. This includes mechanical systems, which he says lag in innovation; facades, which could be more energy-efficient; and the layout of apartments, which are mostly one-size-fits-all. âIn the 1950s, there was this kind of fixed idea of a nuclear family, whereas the diversity of households today is massive,â he says. In his eyes, urban homes in the next few decades will reflect a broad spectrum of uses, as well as iterative innovations in technology.
Here are a few ways Ingels intends to improve housing, wellness, and how we live and (try to) work.
Rearranged Living Spaces
Traditional apartment layouts simply donât account for many family formats, Ingels says, including single-parent households, childless households, and co-living arrangements with multiple roommates. âMost of us have, in our lifetime, stayed in a shared flat with other people,â he says, âwhere we took a bourgeois home from the early 20th century and converted it into something where five young people each had a bedroom and a shared living area. That should be reinterpreted into building designs.â
In the Sluishuis, an Ingels project in Amsterdam, one of the apartment types is called a slice home, which is essentially two apartments with shared rooms in the middle. âIt could be for divorced families with children,â he explains. âDepending on whose week it is, you can move the entryway so the children can stay in the same home.â
Co-living, he says, âis going to be a bigger and bigger part of our residential future.â People might have distanced during the pandemic, but the ongoing economic slump might force many to find savings in shared accommodations. âI donât think the result of Covid is that weâre going to live in complete isolation in a sort of hermetic bubble,â he says. The most immediate consequence is âthat dense cities have discovered the importance of outdoor space.â
Balconies as Rooms
âDuring Covid, one of my partners in New York took every conference call from his balcony,â Ingels says. âItâs generous enough in terms of space, and itâs shaded well enough that it can function as his home office.â Most people think of balconiesâparticularly in urban apartment buildingsâas âsmall, little things, maybe with space for a potted plant and room to smoke a cigarette,â he says. âBut I think the balcony is going to be much more like an outdoor room.â
Even though itâs an extension of the home, Ingels doesnât think a balcony should necessarily be as private as the rest of the house. It could, he says, be a form of semipublic, semiprivate common space. Take his apartment building in Copenhagen, with balconies jutting out over one another. âAt first, it was seen as challenging, because you didnât have full privacy from your neighbor,â he says. âNow, itâs seen as creating a community.â
Part of Ingelsâs preoccupation with outdoor space derives from his interest in biophilia, which posits that humans who experience changes in light, weather, and seasons âare more productive and healthy,â he says. âThe more access you have to greenery, if only visually, the fewer your sick days and the higher your p