Pandemic Design: A New City Streetscape

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This is the second in a series of case studies exploring design concepts to meet the challenging business conditions posed by the pandemic. Our work was done in conjunction with NEWH – The Hospitality Industry Network — and published as part of their special issue magazine, “Beyond Covid-19”. As we have struggled through months of stay at home orders, we have quickly learned the issues that a pandemic can cause within the retail and hospitality industry. Restaurants and non-essential retail stores have been forced to shut their doors, contributing to record job losses. We asked ourselves: how can a city prepare to support the retail and hospitality industry in the midst of another pandemic? How can we, as architects and designers, help citizens maintain their mental and physical health by continuing to offer some sense of normalcy? Our proposed, scalable solution considers fluid and flexible modifications of a neighborhood streetscape to allow its businesses to stay open and offer safe and stimulating atmospheres for patrons.

To achieve a successful streetscape hub, vehicle roundabouts are placed at ends of the boulevard to eliminate traffic, making streets accessible for pedestrians and cyclists only. These roundabouts are used for vehicle drive-thru pickup for both restaurant and retail goods coming from the street. Storefronts are modified into innovative operable designs which incorporate order and pickup windows, including street markers for socially-distant queuing. The expanded restaurant seating areas provide different shade options, and solar-powered heat and light, within six-foot floor markings. Local grocery markets take on open-air space at the intersections via displays of essential food and pharmacy products to lighten crowds inside grocery stores.

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Mobile Kiosk Design

To liven up the streetscape, movable kiosks operate up and down the center lane of the road. The products and services these kiosks provide are arranged in a safe and socially-distant manner. Future city planning would include out-of-commission public transit designed to transform into open-air kiosks during a pandemic, that small business could operate out of free of charge.

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Expanded Retail Options

When planning new construction developments, future partnerships with hotel and grocery uses are necessary. Grocery establishments have thrived as essential businesses. To take advantage of this success, businesses can share services to reduce cost and gain efficiency. Our design portrays this idea as a canopy structure with an enclosed sky-bridge and green-roof garden – adding vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers to the local supply chain of the hotel, grocery, and restaurants. Permanent pick-up kiosks on the street-level allow the public to drive-through and pick-up prepared food as well as groceries, minimizing contact. The grocery store provides food delivery to multiple restaurants on the street, and allows those restaurants to sell pre-packaged meals within the store. The hotel provides unused rooms to essential workers at-risk, and a place to shower and change clothes after their shift before heading home.

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Shared Supply Chain

Restaurants and retail stores need the flexibility to expand beyond their walls during a pandemic, and contract back to a sense of normal when the crisis subsides. They need to find alternative partners who have thrived during this pandemic, such as grocery stores and delivery services. It is the responsibility of local government to help implement a plan throughout the city to help their hospitality and retail industries survive.