18th March, 2020.
As Coronavirus continues to disrupt life as we know it, fundamentally shifting our core values from one hour to the next, a new normal is slowly evolving. In particular, our domestic environments and our social habits are taking on new dimensions that are sending ripples through countless other aspects of our daily interactions both large and small.
Tears have begun to appear in the fabric of our society and, in terms of architecture and the built environment, we have a responsibility to steer design in such a way as to result in homes that support the current global climate whilst laying the foundations for sustainable, long term solutions.
Coronavirus has forced Australia, alongside the rest of the world, into unchartered territory. For a nation accustomed to outdoor living alongside growing doses of digital interaction, and flexible work modes balanced by a burgeoning social scene, the notion of ‘social distancing’ currently being flung around in dizzying amounts, is terrifying. Artist Brian Donnelly (aka KAWS) recently presented works that coined the term “Age of Loneliness” and forced many to acknowledge that loneliness was declared a 21st Century pandemic long before Coronavirus reared its ugly head. The somewhat confronting term has bleak connotations for the state of the world where the mass realisation of digital platforms can quickly create a disconnect from our communities, and the growing ease of remote employment can result in a huge lifestyle imbalance.
In a time when we are most in need of a social human connection, the potential for the directive to practice ‘socially distancing’ could be devastating. Physical distance should not be confused for the social kind. Especially when we have access to myriad remote forms of socialising via technology. So perhaps we should be counteracting the mental health connotations of misunderstanding ‘social distancing’ that can quickly result in disconnection and unhealthy levels of loneliness by harnessing social media and digital communication to actually increase our social interactions as best we can. Should we not perhaps embrace a study nook at home as opposed to a closed off room where we hibernate to day after day? Can we maybe take advantage of potential forced isolation to reach out via technology to neighbours and friends? And when terms like “distancing”, “isolation”, and “limitations on mass gatherings” are thrown at us, can we not see this as an opportunity to seek out alternative ways for meaningful connection via all the opportunity that the digital age has to offer????
Words by Tiffany Jade.
Images by Derek Swalwell.