Culture in confinement: Activating architecture of resilience - International Burch University
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June 8, 2020
June 17, 2020

Culture in confinement: Activating architecture of resilience

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Assist Prof. Lejla Odobasic Novo, Department of Architecture

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are facing social isolation while the cultural institutions are no longer physically accessible. During social distancing, cultural activities have been taking place within the private space or through virtual space. As a group of architectural researchers, we ask what is the role of architecture in this new scenario? Could this be an opportunity to create a more inclusive cultural space that spans beyond the boundaries of a singular building or even a singular nation?

The pandemic -induced changes have been particularly perilous for cultural and creative sectors due to the sudden and massive loss of revenue prospects, especially for the more fragile cultural institutions. This situation has affected the work of all cultural institutions across the world as they remain closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. They have become public buildings without a public. As a result, most cultural institutions have developed a stronger online presence in order to connect to the public during the lockdown.
On the other hand, this shutdown of cultural institutions called for spatial adaptation by all citizens during home isolation to participate in cultural activities during the lockdown as a means of preserving their mental health and connection to the larger community. Thus, their private space has, in essence, become an extension of the public cultural space. The success of many of these online initiatives will undoubtedly inform many cultural institutions’ approaches to audience engagement and architectural adaptation when lockdown restrictions are relaxed. What effect will this have on the architecture of cultural institutions? How are we as architects going to adapt the existing buildings and what are the new design guidelines for the new cultural public buildings in the post-pandemic usage? For architects and architectural researchers, this is the opportunity to question whether there might be a
better model for achieving a more inclusive cultural space than the traditional model? Perhaps one that is less fixed, less centralized, less hierarchical, and taking a cue from online media, less defined by the physical form of their existence – that is architecture. Could this be an opportunity to create a more inclusive cultural space that spans beyond the boundaries of a singular building or even a singular nation? It is our intention, together with our students, to develop a set of guidelines that will be applicable to adapting cultural space in the process of post-pandemic cultural revival throughout Europe.

It is important to highlight the role of culture as a positive resilience in times of turmoil and
as architectural academics and practitioners. We are focusing on the physical space or architectural expression of cultural content which by default has to adapt and become the architecture of resilience under these new circumstances. In doing so, it is also important to define the new spatial implications for the pan-European cultural ‘consumption’ in the post-pandemic scenarios.