It’s been almost 6 months since the world has been hit with the COVID-19 pandemic and most businesses, schools, and government offices have had to make adjustments to their standard operating practice and embrace the work from home model. I constantly hear how architecture will never be the same, businesses will no longer build office buildings, retail shopping stores will be gone, and schools will change forever. While I do think there will be some permanent changes with how we utilize architecture, the majority will not. The reason for this is human interaction.
Let’s start with the retail shopping industry. Honestly, a major change was already in play here before Covid-19, thanks to the internet shopping. For the past 10 years, we have seen more and more large warehouse facilities being constructed for online retail sales. The pandemic has certainly kicked this into overdrive. Architecturally speaking, I believe we will continue to see fewer retail stores. The ease and convenience of being able to make purchases from home or work at any hour of the day is not something most of us are not going to give up. This is where we often want less human interaction. No lines or crowds and I can order the item I want at 11 pm? Sign me up.
Business office space is another major area of architecture that is getting a lot of attention. While some industries find working remotely acceptable or even preferable, I predict most will return to the office environment. Sure, the work can be done remotely, but human interaction is missing. I continually hear people complain they are tired of being cooped up and need to be with other people. It's the small things, like chatting with coworkers you don't regularly work with that we miss. This need for human contact is why I predict most will return, albeit with some changes to the physical space due to the pandemic.
Academics is another hot topic since the pandemic. Sure, online education has been increasing over the years, but after moving most schooling, especially K-12, to an online format, we can see that it doesn't work for everyone. This is especially evident in underserved communities where students may not have access to a strong/stable internet connection, computers or tablets, meals that they may be getting at schools, or even a good space to learn. Additionally, a good deal of socialization happens in the school environment. This human interaction is part of the learning process, and while sometimes it's a distraction, overall, it's necessary. I absolutely can see schools modifying their mechanical systems to protect their students and staff to prevent the spread of Covid, but I don’t foresee significant changes to the architecture.
Human interaction is part of what we all want in some form or another. It’s this internal need that will bring people back together. And yes, there will be changes in architecture, but architecture has always served the human condition and will continue to adapt to meet those needs.