Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pandemic Architecture pt 1

Many readers have sent emails with comments on the many topics posted over the last 18 months. Though I find time to respond to these questions and comments by email, my preference remains that such discussions occur in the public on the blog. With permission I have decided to post one such discussion that occured between myself and a reader here in Asia.

On Sat, 29 Apr 2006 02:49:04 +0800, Lionel Han <*****> wrote:
Dear Peter:
I read with great interest your entries on HIV and architecture. We are a couple of architectural undergrads in our 3rd year at the local university and are currently doing a research on pandemic+architecture as a reassessment of the environment in which we are designing today. Your entries have been insightful and enjoyable and I have some questions pertaining to the topic that I hope you can share your opinions.

Our focus tends towards the more acute consequences of SARS and avianflu and its seemingly uncontrollable spread due to the migratory birds. It was mentioned in the blog, and generally understood, that isolation is the best, if not the only, method of containment. However, it is surely a crime for us architects to design for anti-social spaces. What strategies/approaches are there in designing for 'isolated communities', an oxymoron in itself?

And the answer to the above is likely a defensive and possibly curative solution to a pandemic. We are in search of (hopefully), a 'preventive' typology that may be prescribed, which allows for a rapidconversion to a 'defensive' state should the pandemic arise. It is yet to be decided at which scale we will be tackling this issue, andyour advice could be critical here.

De Landa does mention the parasitic nature of cities that thrives on the influx of man and meat due to the higher mortality rate in the cities as a result of 'urban epidemics'. I agree that the laws and policies set in place in Singapore is a major contributing factor to preventing epidemics in our dense and apparently vulnerable society.Yet, when SARS arrived, it was evident that much of the measurestaken were ad hoc. Is it naive to think that one can apply an architectural typology at all scales now, in a built-up city like Singapore, and allow it to convert to a 'pandemic-ready' state? Or should we realistically aim to design attachments and appendages to buildings for when the need arises, these 'tents' would simply befilters for people transiting in and out of buildings?

I must say the coincidence in stumbling upon your blog and that you're sited in Singapore is simply uncanny. I hope this will prove to be an engaging email dialogue and hope to hear from you soon. Thank you for your time!

Lionel Han

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