The connection we have with our homes has fundamentally shifted since the close of the last decade. Why? They’re no longer just our residences anymore – they’ve become the workplace, the gym, the classroom, the restaurant and so much more since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team became curious to understand how this evolution in use will impact residential design in the short and long term, wondering what a ‘full-service’ home of the future will look like. We turned to industry visionaries Peter van Assche, founder of Bureau SLA, GG-loop founder Giacomo Garziano and Cutwork founders Kelsea Crawford and Antonin Yuji Maeno – all from Frame Awards-winning practices – to share their thoughts and insight on the subject.
‘There are conditions that we are experiencing now that have become standard,’ Garziano started off by saying. ‘We as architects, we have strict rules, standards and norms to follow, and if we followed these standards strictly what we would get is a space that is most probably functional, but without quantitative benefits. Before the pandemic, he had already begun researching ‘a paradigm that we could follow in order to design healthy environments that are not only functionally correct, but also nice to live in’. That mission – especially as he is now analyzing what we can learn from the pandemic’s intersection with the climate crisis – has become even more imperative.
For Yuji Maeno, pre-pandemic residential design in urban environments was largely about the idea of the ‘city as an extension of a living room’. Looking at his own city, Paris, he said, ‘that’s what we miss right now’, mentioning the inability to gather on terraces, arguably the capital’s primary social spaces. Crawford said, ‘[The quarantine] showed the limitations of our personal space, when we’re so used to being able to go out into the city to fulfil our need to socialize, to work, to eat and to have entertainment…and then when suddenly we’re forced to do it all within our houses, we have a very different relationship with the city.’
Van Assche, who sees the quarantine as having unlocked inventiveness and creativity within people, followed by sharing an image of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s 1970 installation, Valley Curtain. ‘Now, in the lockdown period, we are all thinking about how to make separations, how to make divisions, how to make distance,’ said van Assche. ‘This stands for me as a metaphor for the [time] we are in…it shows how beautiful separations can be.’ Citing the human-focused elements of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work, he explained the project illustrates how ‘we should never lose [sight of] or forget the social issues and dimensions that make our lives as designers and architects worth living for’.
We have to look at nature to build up a new value system based on a respect towards our planet and our environment
Cutwork believes that the rising prominence of people working from home will transform residential design, making hybrid spaces more relevant. ‘People will want a more intentional home office set-up,’ Crawford said. Flexible, ‘elastic’ interiors and objects a recurrent theme in their work, they are currently looking at how to create a kit of furniture that is adaptive to people’s new multi-functional needs in the home. Referencing a previous #FrameLive talk on post-pandemic workspace design, she continued: ‘The office is coming in to the home but it won’t look like the office as we know it now. It needs to be refined, to have a different flavour to really meet how we use it today.’ Yuji Maeno responded, saying there’s ‘a lot of gain for design’ as society rethinks everyday rituals and gestures in the pandemic era. ‘That’s how design emerged, no? When there are new behaviours – new rituals – you need new objects.’ ‘There are usages that we can’t even imagine right now,’ replied Crawford, ‘as designers, it’s really important to leave space for this to express itself.’