The best can come out of the worst – if we work (in our office) at it!
As an architect I need to be an optimist – it is part of my survival kit. That does not make me unaware of the bad – but it does make me look for the good (I am ever mindful of Proust’s aphorism ‘the best is the enemy of the good’!). So despite my optimistic outlook I am very aware that beyond the current tragic death count, many impacts of the pandemic lockdown, such as a lack of education for state school pupils and delayed treatment for seriously ill ‘other’ patients, will impact long into the future.
We also need to reflect on the work life rebalance. Can we all manage to continue to read books, bake, walk (and talk even!) in the post-pandemic world? Looking ahead, we need to target the best to achieve the good. So, as we crawl towards a new, as yet undefined normal, we need both to address the collateral damage and to summon the good out of this previously unimaginable global pandemic.
For the state education and health sector, that involves investment in appropriate information technology, and in staff training and numbers. Much as governments, and my profession, like building new, I believe that as we look to a low-carbon future we need to work much more with the stock we have – and focus our collective intelligence on reprogramming, repurposing and reinventing.
This goes beyond the site of the school, university, GP surgery and hospital. We need to look at the adjacent amenities. Not just the parks and sports fields – in which we must also invest. But at the high street. If there is empty stock, let’s take advantage of the slackening-off of what I call the ‘useless use classes’ and utilise it to create a connected community, a campus-like infrastructure. An infrastructure of learning, from nursery through to adult education; of healthcare, reinforcing the success of local health care provision (the vaccine centres being an excellent example) to reduce pressure on the new hospital programme; and on the previously untapped potential of sports as mental health coach – as so many have realised in their lockdown perambulations and cycles that the whole world is a free outdoor gym!