07 July 2020
After the first wave of instantaneous creativity and self-preservation during the lockdown, which inspired designers and architects, technicians and engineers to react speedily to the Covid-19 crisis, primarily by mounting a defensive front in the form of face shields and masks, sanitising devices and temperature control systems, the design world is now in the middle of Phase 3. Creative thinking has had time, opportunity and the rethinking required to anticipate the new demands, both individual and collective. Society does – or perhaps will do – the lion’s share in the “new normal.” This means that social distancing for health reasons is the smallest common denominator in most of the projects. Pininfarina, in partnership with Blimp, a start-up specialising in artificial intelligence, is responding by putting together a solution which, by integrating physical and digital design, technology and services, will enable people to check and monitor application of anti-Covid containment measures in all indoor and outdoor spaces.
Of all the enclosed spaces, lifts see the most traffic and are therefore one of those most at risk of spreading disease. Thanks to Kit CARe, designed by Studio Marco Piva and developed by IGV Group, the cabin and the push-button panel can be sanitised in just a few minutes, thanks to a combination of two different technologies. An ultraviolet UV-C light, as used to sanitise hospital spaces, guarantees the complete sterilisation of the surfaces, while a ventilation device equipped with an HEPA absolute filter combined with an active carbon membrane capable of capturing viruses and bacteria sanitises the air. The air exchange is almost instantaneous, and the sterilisation takes place during the stand-by phase. Invisible, silent and low-energy, it can be used in all types of lift with minimum intervention.
From Bergamo, the province worst-hit by the pandemic, comes TEXO®, a system of adjustable panels made of fabric containing silver particles, which can nullify the bacterial charge of the coronavirus. It has been devised by Tensoforma, a company specialising in the design and engineering of innovative architectural envelopes. The fabric exploits the well-known antibacterial properties of the precious metal and a patented productive treatment cuts the viral load by 95% within a quarter of an hour of contact and by 99.5% after an hour. Its antiviral properties have been tested and certified by the VirHealt laboratory in Lyon, which specialises in virucidal applications of decontamination technologies.
“I would never dreamt that a partition could become a future socialising tool,” said the architect Matteo Cibic, who has come up with COV, a series of space dividers providing an elegant solution to gauging the correct distance in restaurants, or at the hairdresser or in the office. These are transparent Perspex panels that come in different sizes and forms, on an anodised aluminium support in a range of finishes, produced by FusinaLab. They can also be custom-made.
Made in France, Plex’Eat is a proposal from the designer Christophe Gernigon, who has devised ceiling-hung plexiglass hoods for people who want to share a dinner table with others while remaining safe and comfortable. Larger models for couples craving a romantic supper and families who want to get together for a meal are in the pipeline.
It’s just a step from the countryside to the greenhouse, geographically-speaking, one might say. In Amsterdam, the Serres Séparés restaurant trialled by Mediamatic, a leading arts centre focused on the relationship between art, design and science, as the name of the restaurant suggests, is serving meals in small transparent two-person greenhouses beside the water. The waiters wear protective clothing and face shields, and serve the food on long trays, thus avoiding close contact with the diners, guaranteeing perfect relaxation.
People are starting to go back to restaurants, and to parks, especially in view of the fine weather. The British designer Paul Cocksedge has come up with a DIY picnic rug, Here Comes the Sun, to help people adhere to correct social distancing, not always easy to visualise or to achieve. The rug is round, so that it can fit round a tree and facilitate friends’ and family gatherings.
From parks to beaches, and also enclosed spaces - anywhere one can sit on the ground and mark out one’s own space - there’s C’entro, a design solution for safe socialising from the Milanese design studio SBGA Blengini Ghirardelli. It’s a system of coloured fibreglass rods that slot together to form an imperfect circle that can be enlarged to contain two people. The circles are attached to a metre-and-a-half spacer for measuring the space between people.
Conceived before Covid air travel restrictions began to be lifted, the Isolate kit from FactoryDesign, a London agency specialising in aeronautical consultancy, is an ad hoc solution to social distancing between passengers, guaranteeing maximum safety. The foldaway table turns into a support for a transparent thermoplastic screen, also available in thermo-formed foam with a leather trim. The kit is easily disassembled for couples who wish to sit together.
Finally being allowed to go out has led several designers to rethink negotiating and living in cities. The Parisian competition launched by the Mayor Anne Hidalgo for new urban anti-Covid social distancing signage to be used initially in the vicinity of schools was won by the 5.5. Studio collective. Large blue waves signal the presence of students to drivers, while a series of small white waves reminds pupils (and their parents) of the obligation to social distance. The wave has a specific connotation in that it draws on the motto of Paris, “Fluctuat net mergitur” (It is tossed by the waves but does not sink) and the Seine, one of its most powerful symbols. Again in Paris and again thanks to the city council, in synergy with JCDecaux, which has installed hand sanitising dispensers designed by Patrick Jouin in more than 2,000 urban facilities, from bus shelters to self-cleaning lavatories. The bright blue colour is not just a symbol of hygiene, it is also clearly visible and reflects the sunlight, ensuring that the disinfectant does not overheat.
Although less exposed to the pandemic, there is no lack of protective devices for children, especially ahead of their return to school. With this in mind, bio-architects Ilaria Bizzo and Stefano Cornacchini at bc Studio in Mantua have created the freestanding, replicable, prefabricated and recyclable qb_quarentine box. It is a square wooden structure with see-through or coloured plexiglass inserts, large enough to provide a protective cell for a desk and chair. Berlin-based Martin Binder and Claudio Rimmele, designer and psychologist respectively, have turned their thought to safety in play by creating Rimbin (rim=edge and bin=container), an echo of the robust waterlily pads on water: it is a large playground divided into a number of areas, some of them raised, connected visually and acoustically by long hollow tubes. Again for children, aged 4 to 8, Metaform has come up with a fun 3D facial shield that can be applied to the visor of a cap and personalised by inserting a sheet of paper with a cut-out of a crown, rabbit’s ears or a pair of huge eyes in between the two sheets of plexiglass. Here the instructions.
For adults, Iosa Ghini design workshop has come up with the Anti Virus Mask, which encloses the entire face, while leaving the identity of the wearer plain to see. A fan channels the air through a filtering system, which can be customised according to the particulate in question - virus, smog or other pathogens. Other features for the mask, such as microphones, smart devices for dialoguing with portable ones and UVC light sanification systems, are in the pipeline.
Inspired by science fiction cartoons of the Fifties and the utopian movements of the Sixties, the Berlin-based group of artists PlastiqueFantastique has produced iSphere, a jolly facial shield, which is also a serious object in that it triggers reflection on this extraordinary situation. It is an opensource project: by taking two transparent semi-circles and cutting out a head-shaped space, in 30 minutes and with approximately 25 euros, you can make a fantastic helmet/bubble, customisable with accessories ranging from microphones, fans and parasols.
Protection meets fashion style with the sunshade invented by New York-based Joe Doucet, who was looking for something people actually wanted to wear rather than just being forced to. The outline of a pair of UV-protected, anti-fogging glasses can be stamped onto plexiglass in order to create different models for men, women and children. To be worn just like a real pair of glasses! Costume designer Veronica Toppino’s Cappelli Struttura are a blend of fashion and art. Art, as in a social distancer - this is the basic concept of this pre-Covid project, but now a trigger for reflection on fashion as a solution to the new social requirements. The hats create a physical, protective space around the body, rather like the Victorian crinolines, and their wide brims are suggestive of an orbit around the head. The women’s version is silk-lined and covered with self-coloured netting, while the men’s version comes in open-framed aluminium.
That just leaves us with an embarras de choix, that’s for sure!