The Joy of Home During COVID-19 Times
|Townhouse interior by Mergal Architecture & Design photo by Peter Murdock
Spiritual and motivational leaders exhort us to seek the “golden lessons” hidden in this tragic quarantine. They ask us to look with optimism for the silver lining hidden behind this noxious pandemic and cite past plagues as proof that “this too shall pass” with a better future in the offing.
We architects are in the business of imagining a brighter and better future through our designs. But how can architecture help during this pandemic? I will posit the notion that well-designed traditional houses enable us to weather this so-called “new normal” better than houses designed in a modernist style for the following seven reasons. Traditionally designed houses:
1- Are a collection of discreet rooms instead of undifferentiated spaces that flow into each other. How many contemporary houses have living, dining, kitchen and family rooms that open “loft-like” to each other? In a well-designed traditional house rooms have doors which can be closed for privacy.
|Townhouse interior by Mergal Architecture & Design, photo by Peter Murdock
2- Visually express the structural loads (from the roof to the ground) clearly giving us a sense of stability as opposed to visually defying gravity.
3- Have vertically oriented windows (VOHs) - as opposed to bands of horizontal windows. VOHs respond to our innate sense of proportion, order and well-being. They are anthropomorphic, i.e. they resemble a person; they stand vertically.
Townhouse renovation by Mergal Architecture & Design
4- Tend to have narrow footprints (less than 25 feet wide, about 2 rooms wide), promoting cross-ventilation and natural light, which leads to a healthy environment.
|Brooklyn house renovation by Mergal Architecture & Design
5- Are designed following a local typology. In other words, houses that belong to a particular geographical and cultural area have similar architectural characteristics or a similar “architectural DNA”. This lends a greater sense of stability and belonging – reassuring characteristics in unfamiliar times.
Dutch Colonial House designed by Mergal Architecture & Design
6- Are good neighbors – they fit into the character of the neighborhood instead of contrasting with it. This is true not only of exterior massing, but also in the use of compatible materials. Building houses with multiple gables in communities known for simply gabled or hip roofs is antagonistic; precisely the opposite you need during a pandemic.