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Fluidity in spaces - Adaptive trends in architecture

Posted by
on May 13, 2020 at 05:16 PM

© Courtesy of (Image for representation: PTI)

Throttling at full speed into the 21st century, with technological advancements in the world of architecture and construction going far and beyond all expectations and imaginations, we turned a Utopic world into pragmatic reality. Right from the skyscrapers soaring high, to converting a desert into a dense urban forest, we achieved control over harsh climatic conditions through materials and technology. While learning to build in erstwhile impossible conditions, we also learned to strike a balance with the environment by building sustainably. We also addressed the issue of urban density by looking at the future of building on water!

However, come 2020 - and we are no longer so sure of the future! No technology, no artifical intelligence, no augmented reality - nothing helped save the world from the Covid-19 pandemic! 

Our cities have grown horizontally and vertically for decades now. Experimenting with forms, materials, techniques everything has evolved to become easy. We live in a world of plenty! Just a vague inspiration turns into a line sketch and further into a massive structure looming over us.

Today we stand at a time in a global pandemic, where everything has come to a standstill, life seems stagnant. Where everything is paused, the future lies in uncertainty, when we question literally everything, when we have to strive for the basics. If we cannot move forward in this time, what should we do? Look into the past for answers! What did man in the prehistoric era do? ADAPT.

And we too must do the same. We have, in  fact been forced to adapt. We must re-assess the architecture around us with a view of how it can adapt for present needs - and re-think how buildings must be built in the future...


© Courtesy of internet sources

They say necessity is the mother of all invention. In these troubled times, with increasing number of patients and severe space crunch in hospitals, other spaces needed to be reimagined and remodeled to serve the purpose. A lot of existing facilities, which are now shut or underutilized due to the lockdown, were adapted to change into a care facility for Covid-19 patients. We have seen famous stadia converted into a medical facility and care center for patients of the pandemic' with the central ground space entirely utilized for arranging beds.

Parking lots too are getting beds arranged in them and turned into health centers. Where a shortage occurs we think of quick replacement options from what we have. This basement car park of a hospital in the USA too has been converted into a Covid treatment facility. 

© Courtesy of Image credit : Squint/Opera

New York turned its largest convention center into a 1000-bed hospital. Thomas Quigley, director of healthcare at the global architecture firm HOK, explains says that erecting a separate hospital for non-Covid cases will help stem the spread of the virus. “What you want to do is decant or direct the less acute and non-Covid-19 patients away from the current hospital,” he explains. “The temporary hospital allows for clinical care in a medically supervised environment, where they are less likely to become infected and can receive the appropriate care.” The plan is seen below.

Manhattan's Central Park which has ample open space is used to set up temporary camps for medical relief and testing, as cases are increasing. Such existing infrastructure facilities can be quickly adapted to create such spaces.

In South Korea a drive-through parking lot was designed to become a drive- in checkup facility/ test center.

In Tehran, an exhibition centre was converted into a 2000-bed hospital.  These temporarily remodeled spaces are serving as important resources in a country, helping patients, while also maintaining social distancing norms for prevention of the spread of the virus.


© Courtesy of (Photo credits: K.C. Wilsey/FEMA)

In India, we saw a remarkable adaption! Our trains have been transformed into isolation wards. This is actually a brilliant idea,. The sleeper berths  in the compartments act as hospital beds. Separated by curtains, they can comfortably serve a large number of patients. Plus, there are toilets and pantries in the trains, to take care of the essential needs. And it is also easy to isolate the patients, indirectly stemming the spread of the infection.


© Courtesy of Image Credit: PTI

It is gratifying to see how spaces have moulded their functions. Which brings me to the thought: Why should spaces not be designed this way? Why can we not build "function fluid" architecture?

Sometimes defining a boundary causes differences. Any space that is designed should have the spatial syntax suitable for the climate, responsive to site conditions, and basics like light and ventilation, and sanitation with services installed. Just by providing a space like this, which does not have a designated function can work wonders to the society.

Malls which have defined stores, entries, exits can be such fluid spaces. No defined inside outside spaces, and maybe even the functional use in daytime could transform to completely different use by night. 

© Courtesy of Photo credits : Marko Djurica/Reuters

Of course a lot of thinking and analysis must go into the design, besides approvals from the civic bodies sanctioning urban development proposals. However, such adaptive trends of past buildings can be absorbed, and function fluid architecture can be created in future, by architects around the world.

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