A Serene Path to Oneness, When We Have to Be Alone

Due to the precautions countries across the world are taking to curb exposure to the coronavirus, famous parks in Vienna have all been closed for the duration. Because of this sudden lack of outdoor space within which to roam and feel at ease, Studio Precht designed a way for local residents to get access to nature while remaining appropriately distant from one another. Parc de la Distance is the name of the project proposed by the green architectural firm for a vacant lot in Vienna. Reminiscent of both Baroque and Zen gardens of the past, it will feature multiple spaced-out pathways for individuals to enjoy on foot. “Although our ‘Park de la Distance’ encourages physical distance,” the architects explain, “…it is shaped by the human touch: a fingerprint.”

While it is currently mandatory to remain at a distance from fellow residents as a means of mutual protection, the designers envision the park to remain an important respite from the noise and commotion of a bustling city once the pandemic has receded, and life returns to “normal.” the use of a fingerprint as the guiding shape reminds us how human we all are, whether battling an unseen scourge or seeking a little solitude amid the tumult of ordinary times.

How Will We Work?

We have all had to adjust, and swiftly, to a shifting social environment — one in which we have been forced to adopt brand new ways to navigate, literally, around the safety and protection of ourselves and other members of our communities. What will our workplaces look like when we are finally allowed to return? Our gathering places, museums, arenas, markets? Our playgrounds and theaters and other sites of recreation and learning?

The threat of Covid-19 has exerted an enormous shift in our habitual protocols of movement and communication. We need to closely consider how the spaces we have traditionally occupied with little concern for their dimensions, density, and design can be the starting point for innovations in architecture.

Post-pandemic, when governments begin to focus on strengthening the economy, they must pay special attention to sponsoring and encouraging the development of buildings that promote the safety and health of its occupants. We need to look at how, why, and where we work, and create indoor and outdoor areas that are shaped to comply with our changing values and needs.
The “new normal” offers architecture the opportunity to provide spaces that assure our well-being. For instance, models that engage environmental science with green design can successfully create healthy places that adhere to the new standards. Another imperative will be employing technology that can alert us about air quality and airborne hazards, and respond to the information by adjusting floorplans and layouts based upon social-distancing objectives. This will be a tremendous test of how well we can all readjust to a changed landscape — with safety, efficiency, and communal prosperity as our primary goals.

The Overlooked Beauty of the Unwanted

You’ve almost certainly heard the expression, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” In the case of Berlin-based visual artist Henry Baumann, what one person discards can become an art installation that appeals to more than just your eyes. In his latest work, Baumann used abandoned material he found at a building site (his usual foraging ground) to create audiovisual sculptures that invite you to touch it, climb into it, to speak and listen from inside it, becoming a catalyst for discussion, connection and exchange.

These elements shift based on the artist’s choice of shape. Baumann has built sculptural forms reminiscent of sea shells, croissants, and strangely organic tubes and tunnels. The emphasis is not only on the aesthetic allure and the involvement of your senses to truly experience the work, it is also a masterful reminder that there is beauty to behold and uncover in what others have renounced. It is a sublime kind of recycling, and allows us to envision the transformation of ordinary things into extraordinary pieces for reflection and admiration.

Green Instinct

For most of us, there is an innate longing to be surrounded by other living things. Some believe biophilia is coded into our very genes. While a deep and sustained communion with nature and wildlife isn’t possible for everyone, perhaps these ideas for bringing the outdoors in can to help promote this connection.

Infusing the outdoor spaces of your home with calm, comfort, and greenery is one such way. Areas like the balcony, the front porch — even the underside of a deck, a space largely underutilized in many homes — become ideal canvases for blurring the boundary between outside and in.

Water is a primally soothing element. Creating a water source in your garden or within your home is a fabulous way to welcome the presence of nature into your immediate space.

Open your windows! The more light and air we invite, the more closely we can observe and relish the simple things around us — the wind in the trees, the birdsong, the sun — and greatly elevate our spirits, especially when the human world has left us weary.