On the 31st of December 2019, an online statement by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission of a “viral pneumonia of unknown cause” marked the first incidence of COVID-19. Like natural disasters, pandemics leave much devastation in their wake – and in an increasingly globalised world – COVID-19 has been no exception. What is crucial now is to move forward stronger, more prepared than before. “Building Back Better”, first described in the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015, is an approach aimed at decreasing the risk future disasters pose. To ‘Build Back Better’ is to learn from disaster, to better inform decision making. This study positions itself at this precipice; setting out to map and document interventions in the built environment which successfully responded to the pandemic, whilst simultaneously demonstrating how ingenious and innovative solutions can turn mitigation into an inspiration for building smarter and better. The study aimed to map inspiring projects based on a set of predefined criteria – first and foremost the dual quality of response and potential. Through correspondence, interviews, and desktop study, 35 projects from around the world were collected in a compendium, which will serve as a tool to inspire stakeholders to the built environment in Denmark. Cases were documented by means of drawing, diagrams, and a brief written description; the goal of which was to describe what specific challenge was being met, and how the solution confronted the problem. From a pavilion built from scaffolding keeping entertainment going in Colombia, to smart occupancy technologies and flow control for a healthy, safe built environment in Denmark – the collection of projects serves as an early repository for Building Back Better in a post COVID-19 world. While an abundance of media has focused on the potential outcomes or possible implications of the pandemic, this study has focused on finding and highlighting concrete examples of solutions as they can be witnessed today. Solutions which we hope can serve to inform how we might build safer, more resilient systems, communities, and cities in the future.
Tiago: Tiago Da Costa Vasconcelos is a professional Architect (MAA) and prospective PhD student. Having graduated from the Royal Danish Academy’s MA program: Architecture and Extreme Environments in 2019, he has since worked as a graduate research assistant at the academy’s IBT laboratory. With a focus on sustainable development, wellness, health, and data driven design, he hopes to establish himself as a well-rounded academic who puts research into practice. He is also a co-founder and partner of NEXT, a young architectural and design studio based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Thomas: Thomas Chevalier Bøjstrup is an architect and a PhD student in the Royal Danish Academy. Thomas has a background in practise and teaching, and since 2016 he has been exploring the question of architecture and sustainable development through a range of activities, including co-authoring An Architecture Guide to the UN17 Sustainable Development Goals. Currently he is conducting studies in the area of architecture and public health, through the project ‘Star Homes: better health through better housing’ – a project focusing on malaria and housing in Sub-Saharan Africa. Natalie: Natalie Mossin is Head of Institute at the Royal Danish Academy – Institute of Architecture and Technology. She is a specialist of sustainable development in the built environment and innovation in construction. Natalie Mossin is serving on the Council of the International Union of Architects (UIA), as a co-chair of the UIA Commission on Sustainable Development and has recently been elected Vice President of the International Union of Architects’ Region 1 (Western Europe). Natalie is President of Congress for the World Congress of Architects 2023 and a past President of the Danish Association of Architects (2008-2018). She has served in numerous honorary offices and as an architectural editor, curator, and juror. She has been a Fulbright Scholar at Columbia University, New York, and a curator of the Danish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.