Architecture in Times of Coronavirus
As humanity encounters a global and unprecedented challenge– one fueled by fear, uncertainty, and self-isolation, a constant in this scenario is architecture: our relationship and interaction with our interior & exterior environments– our dwellings–our homes.
More than half of the world population resides in cities and densely populated areas, and through the growth of metropoles, technology, and the industrialization of processes, humans have increasingly lost connection and empathy towards nature and other living beings.
In addition to the intense global isolation we are all experiencing during this time of pandemic, the state of disconnect with the natural world has actually been with us for quite some time. Take the idea of vertical living, for example, this concept has been disengaging from its beginnings, turning us into solitary spectators rather than active members of our communities– further distancing the urban dweller from all aspects of the natural world.
Connection to nature, to other living beings, and to the outside world becomes more than ever, an intrinsic necessity.
The increasing pressure of land use and optimization which has made cities more dense and vertical has resulted in a dichotomy of urban solutions that have become the norm for the world's middle class. On one hand, the onset of the high-rise typology has deviated humans' direct contact with the natural world by compacting life into vertically stacked footprints to fit as many humans in the least amount of space. On the other hand, as a response to the apparent need for humans to be closer to nature, expansive suburban conurbations on the outskirts of city cores have been created that try to replicate or mimic a more healthy nature-oriented lifestyle for families. However, transforming the wilderness into tightly controlled human designed environments, has equally failed to engage with nature and its systems. Both urban models, for example, try to intrinsically disinfect and seclude nature and other humans from our daily lives.
As cities increasingly tend to evolve into these directions we must respond with a realistic approach towards this problem. Long before this pandemic, our mission was to analyze and transform the high-rise typology in cities into one for the collective good. This means, incorporating the deficiencies present in our daily lives– nature and community inclusiveness. We do this by tactically designing the high-rise to incorporate vertical ecosystems as a medullary element of the design, bringing awareness to its users of the importance of having ecosystems in close proximity.
The value of green space, balconies, courtyards, patios, and gardens– all become fundamental elements of design and not just elements of ornamentation.
Our building Sunflower Tower, for example, challenges the accelerated pace of urbanization. As cities continue to grow, the natural landscape, together with its endemic species is increasingly under threat. This is a type of urbanism that breaks the intrinsic link between people and nature.
The design of this project was conceived as an arched facade, functioning not only as the main structure of the tower, but creating pockets of plant life at each junction of the arches. This assembly is based on repetition, generating a biophilic skin that positions the project towards an equilibrium between the built and the natural world.
In Quito, a city straddling the equator, where the sun is positioned at almost 90 degrees yearlong, architecture –particularly of high-rise buildings– has the immense potential of becoming vertical ecosystems that can take advantage of the equatorial rays, contributing to build an urbanism that responds to –what we believe– is the intrinsic need for inhabitants to be in a permanent relationship with nature.
In this sense, Sunflower Tower takes advantage of the geo-location of the equinoctial Andean city to form a self-sufficient and sustainable deposit of plant life. This biophilia-based design not only reduces the carbon footprint of homes but also allows residents to have a constant and direct connection with nature. Each apartment is surrounded by a mini forest of its own, amidst a dense urban surrounding, which creates a unique user experience and changes the typical urban backdrop by adding a layer of nature to the user’s lens.
Our application and incorporation of nature in architecture, not only generates new and unexpected viewpoints, but more importantly, reconsiders how we perceive and interact with our environment. It implies a deconstruction of the way in which we operate within the built world, with the novelty of connecting human beings with other living systems.
As we are confined to our homes for an unknown duration of time, the value of well-designed communities and habitable spaces sincerely comes to light. A connection to nature, to other living beings, and the outside world becomes more than ever an intrinsic necessity. The value of green space, balconies, courtyards, patios, and gardens– all become fundamental elements of design and not just elements of ornamentation.