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Life + Design in a Pandemic World


Over the last 7 weeks whilst we have all been working from home, at Prior + Partners we have been reevaluating what we consider as important in the design of our towns and cities. The diversity of our workforce means that we have been able to draw on our own first hand experience of this pandemic, as well as learning from that of our friends, family, contacts, partners, and clients. What is clear from our conversations is that individual living circumstances are hugely influential in how individuals are able to cope and manage at this time. The design of our homes and our neighbourhoods are a crucial influencing factor on our health and well being, and our ability to be able to adjust to the ‘new normal’ that is emerging.

At Prior + Partners we have championed the importance of accessible high quality open space in high density areas to enable a good quality of life and address climate impacts in the towns and cities we live in. We have discussed the changing nature of our high streets and local centres and how they can be diverse and facilitate social interaction to address loneliness. We have championed the provision of localised shared workspaces to support shifts in how we live and work, reflecting trends towards more flexible lifestyles and increased remote working at or near to our homes.  We have also encouraged consideration of how our streets need to change to allow for increased social interaction, childrens’ play, and more sustainable travel in a carbon neutral or negative world.

In our conversations about the pandemic so far, we believe that these principles continue to be as valid as ever, if not more so than previously. However, we also reflect that some of what we have been championing may need to change as our knowledge of how we adapt to living in pandemics grows. The details can become as important as the bigger picture. The width of a pavement, the entrance way to a park, the frontage area of a restaurant, the nature of play space, the positioning of balconies, the number of lift cores and stairwells, and the circulation space within a home and building are crucial to get right as we move forward, to avoid unnecessary social contact and facilitate ongoing engagement with the outside world during periods of isolation, lock down, or social distancing.

We are concerned that in the move to ease restrictions, we will see trends emerge which seek to undo the progress we have made in understanding the social and economic agglomeration benefits of our towns and cities and how we can best address social isolation and climate change. In this time of great societal change, we seek to open up a new conversation about how we can continue to collectively reap the benefits that towns and cities offer to grow our economies and enable us to live sustainably, whilst adjusting quickly to the requirements that living through a pandemic necessitate.

We look forward to engaging with you in this conversation, to evolve our approach to design to respond to the new normal.  


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