24/02/2021- 06:07 am: this morning I woke up and I was still thinking about the long talk I had yesterday night about the best surfing spots in Italy. My friend was telling me how the underwater currents, both the warm and cold ones, affect the shape of the waves. I went to bed but couldn’t sleep.
I don’t know how, but I suddenly started comparing those water flows to the millions of people that this pandemic has forced, or just pushed, to move, returning home or going somewhere else.
How can this affect our daily life? And this is not about imminent consequences, but about how our current choices will affect our future, both upcoming and remote.
I am the first one who has moved back home after living 3 years in Shanghai, and so has done most of my friends that were either with me in Shanghai or in London, Milan and so on.
What kind of new routines, attitudes and habits will we be spreading around? What impact will our decisions have on our country? And, most importantly – at least for me, being an architect – how will architecture adapt to these changes?
Somehow architecture is already adapting to our new habits and our lifestyle that require a different way of understanding buildings, being them home, office or whatever. How? The following is just a selection of 3 of the main examples that have immediately come to my mind.
The new “SmartCo” Working
Since the first European lockdown in early march 2020, smart working became essential for most office’s workers. We spent the first half of the year reshaping our living room, spare bedroom or kitchen, trying to arrange at best a space that, for most of us, wasn’t ready to host a workstation. In 2021 offices are pretty much still closed, and we’ll probably be fully home working for at least another year.
In southern Europe, most of the Mediterranean countries are now launching new ways to host the digital nomads with mid-long term leasing in wonderful Italian “borghi” or exotic Spanish islands. Previously unknown villages and ghost villages are now getting noticed by those tourists that would spend weeks, or even months, enjoying nature, food and farm life.
Nowadays, you don’t need to escape to some exotic spots and follow the “new Bali” etc, but think outside the box!
Borgo Office – is a rising startup with the aim of creating a network of selected farmer industries ready to host every smart worker for free. The fee is applied by directly purchasing K-0 local products from the hosting family. I found a similar and successful project in Australia where you have to spend 2/3 weeks on a farm to extend your visa and I think that the Pleasure (business & pleasure) concept couldn’t be better explained.
The mixed-use houses
I do believe that the pandemic won’t change our routine habits, but will definitely reshape the way we apply them. Morning workouts in a crowded gym or yoga class will take a long time to come back, what customers are asking for is to create a community area where they can continue to work and live without roaming so far.
Working in an international architecture office in Shanghai I got used to this kind of project: a big compound fulfilled with any amenities from laundry to the gym up to food court, which can be both public and private, but always open for the inhabitants.
This project rises from the luminary concept of Le Corbusier and now is getting more common in the upper-middle class in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Shanghai, New York while arising in London, Paris, Milan.
With so many people coming back from foreign countries with habits locally considerer “futuristic”, this “future” will spread much faster and will become normal sooner than we can imagine.
City home away from home
As the third step of this journey, I would like to play with fantasy, imagining how people will change their life’s perception in the next years: being so much in smart working, discovering small villages where to be in harmony with nature, will have an impact on us. But which one?
I’ll bet on the tendency of reversing our lifestyle: the city will become a quick meeting point, as big “plazas”, where to have a meeting and attend a specific event.
City apartments will become second houses to rent – in part or entirely and when possible – for a middle-short term lease. The nearby borghi or villages will take the lead and, in some cases, the summer houses will become the place where to spend most of the year instead of summer weekends.
I really believe that this phenomenon is going to be a natural consequence of what’s happening; the younger generations will create a creative community in some hidden gems villages, that a country like Italy preserves, in a beautiful new global gentrification.