Covid-19 in Housing Architecture

Marcelo Montoro • Founding and Managing Partner, Brazil


Leônidas Institute, an important scientific institution in Brazil, said the Covid-19 pandemic is related with deforestation, anthropogenic pressure and biological security, a statement not commented on by the undermined WHO.

At the end of the first half of 2020 the news was almost exclusively about the pandemic. A proportion of the world’s population was in isolation, immersed in a new routine.

Doctors and nurses became oracles for unanswered questions about the biological disaster.

Isolation was condemned by flat-earthers and exposed the ineffectiveness of the measures for vulnerable people. The problem was in the customs and in the physical environment. In addition to the new problems of those who were able to do what was recommended, those who could not be in isolation entrenched themselves in a sponge belt and continue waiting for it to go away.

Many theories have emerged and it will be up to “natural selection” to discard some. It is a fact that remote work, if it increases significantly, will be able to affect infrastructure, the price of land, construction, labour relations, logistics. Home office has always been a demand of the residential program. The crisis may have raised new interest in this program item, or opportunities involving both ideas.

Locked at home we see architecture being classified as a non-essential activity, and we see its productive continuity, both as home office and as remote work, serve as training for the next opportunity.

As home office and remote work already existed before the pandemic, the sudden pressure on their demand has highlighted the importance of this resource across the board, as there may be demand for them in almost all social classes and in many activities. This is a theme for years of research, mainly because remote work does not mean home office, nor vice versa, and much confusion has been generated around this.

Changes have occurred and will occur, which is nothing more than expected. But the eagerness to know what would happen was great. It is very likely that not all “candidates for change” will be integrated into the lifestyle of each country. Today, more distant from the lockdown, some notions and “candidates for change” become clear to me:

PROPHECY: it is a premonition and it is dogmatic. Hypothesis is more attractive than prophecy. Hypotheses are easy to understand, especially when they are substantiated. It is an old resource in a new guise.

UNKNOWN: not knowing what is unknown was terrifying, affected the establishment and will probably be unpredictably terrible in similar situations ahead;

EXPERIENCES: efficiency, adaptability and communication are concepts that may have been widely experienced, contemplated and desired in this crisis.

HOUSING: many have found themselves confined to their homes, making the home, or housing, a protagonist. The pandemic has temporarily affected our understanding, forcing us to a new experimentation with housing, which may influence future changes in legal frameworks, expectations, products and the relevance and perception of housing.

VICTIMS: I had the impression that it was consensual in most analyses and prophecies that the most affected sectors were the hotel and the office sectors. Some prophecies rehearsed the future movements of these activities. They did not prophesy their extinction, which has not thus far occurred either. The closing of Hertz and J.C. Penney in the U.S., as a matter of fact, are occasional cases of lean companies or companies that had previous problems, both or for other reasons.

Car rental and retail will not disappear, at least in the short term, I think. Once again, as in every crisis, some fat was burned, many businesses disappeared and many opportunities arose.

VIRTUAL: the pandemic has further blurred the boundary between the real and the virtual, the consequences of which are unpredictable.

WWW: the Internet has expanded its importance or at least the number of users. It became, at the peak of the lockdown, a ring, a very frequented battlefield, with executions, “cancellations” and other threats, phenomena that had been happening before this pandemic. As every generation has one or some symbols, the occurrences in the virtual world (during this period) are strong candidates to be elected, in addition to broadband.

The crisis has been overwhelming in some things that it is hoped will not continue. When these overwhelming factors go away, some prophecies will go along.

As it is certain that everything changes, behavioural, building and urban changes should not be prophesied by architecture, or by urbanism, or by any isolated speciality. Hypotheses may be the best contributions of architecture and urbanism. Many of the situations experienced will still be thoroughly analysed, many bets will arise and natural selection (or whatever filter there may be) will elect the successful changes.

The pandemic was and is a relevant event that has a great momentary impact. The changes are reflective, they are consequences of this disturbance. Unlike fire-spitting dragons, the pandemic is real and is game over for some. But if the pandemic (or any other Godzilla that might have appeared) had been a dragon, it would have spat on us the fire that burns without flame. Another renewing force among so many we live with.

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