Using Design to Lead us to a Better Place

Founding Principal of peckvonhartel, Yvonne von Hartel AM, pens her thoughts on how the property industry can respond to the unique challenges of this global pandemic and how we can allow good design to lead us to a better place.

“In unusual times, new ideas are generated by sheer necessity or simply by chance.

The pandemic has altered our course towards embedding an inherent flexibility and adaptability in all our business ventures. From now, our value propositions will be multifaceted; creativity and creative responses to our business challenges will transform the way we live, work and play.

This approach is more sudden than transient; in a matter of weeks we have seen cultural programs and curated exhibitions transformed from physical experiences connected to place, to online offerings. Thankfully, evidence of what the creative mind can do in adverse circumstances.

Innovation Redefined.

We should be grateful for how this global experience has raised the bar for innovation. We have been forced into a new norm.

But where are the great inventions in times like this? Where is the contribution to the public good? I suggest that new thinking will be generated from the cumulative effect of many design responses to our current circumstances. I look forward to that time.

Design responses to the pandemic will change the design of everything; it has already changed the way we work, the way we procure goods, the way we play and relate to our friends and families.

Changes will occur to the design of public spaces, infrastructure, workplaces, homes, our cities. These changes will be a result of Architects, Interior Designers and Planners reacting to the design of existing facilities and rethinking how each place can be made better, future proof, more adaptable to unforeseen circumstances, a better environment in which to live.

An Opportunity to Disrupt.

We are already seeing the impact of changes to our urban environment in response to changing business models and our subsequent actions to aid the recovery of our city. Soon the City of Melbourne will expand outdoor dining opportunities using on street parking bays, they will deliver additional bike lanes and pedestrian walkways throughout the city, and repurpose the CBD’s little streets to allow for activation in support of our renowned hospitality businesses.

These initiatives, whilst initially may be considered small, will ultimately set a precedent for change and progression, and we will never go back. Changes will support urban regeneration and recovery and help reinstate Melbourne as the world’s most liveable city.  

Our homes will be designed with a different mindset with flexibility driving the design layout. Working from home requires private space with appropriate infrastructure and storage. Managing schooling at home equally requires access to private spaces and ‘break out’ areas. A large open space may be suitable for some activities, but not all. The domestic market will respond with a new design focus of flexibility, priority access to outside areas and, not surprisingly, garden spaces for growing produce.

Apartment buildings may move to minimum prescribed distance apart, limits on floor plate sizes and number of apartments allowed on each floor.  The towers might be provided with upgraded lift services to allow less crowding and perhaps greater balcony areas (e.g. wintergardens) to accommodate a range of activities and uses.

Our cities will be designed differently. The value of open space (parks or playing fields or connected ‘green’ spaces) within walkable proximity of every dwelling will be a standard planning criterion. Public transport use will require a more even distribution of passengers throughout the day.

Future designs of our workplaces will continue to maintain altered frequency of attendance at the workplace, density, and workplace functions. Leasing models and commercial spaces will begin to reinvent towards this new client model. Landlords and Building Owners will look to provide amenity beyond tenancy walls to ensure the building supports lower densities and building usage that is distributed across and outside the standard business schedules we have grown accustomed to.

The outcome of these design changes will be significant, both in the way we live and work as individuals and in the way our cities will function.  This is an opportunity for the creative response to flourish and have a profound impact on experience-led design models.

We should welcome these changes and allow good design to lead us to a better place.”