Adaptive boundaries
Designing Social Connection For Post Pandemic Public Space.
Project Type: Public Space Activation
Location: Adaptable
Since New York City saw one of the worst peaks of the pandemic, we chose to address the challenges faced by restaurants there. Looking at solutions adopted by restaurants since their reopening, there has been a range of quick, on-the-feet thinking in the hospitality sector. At first, the focus was on outdoor seating and ways to maximize capacity, while also maintaining a certain quality of design. Now, we are starting to see how restaurants are thinking about their indoor spaces as regulations ease up.
Given that the past year has seen an emergence and re-emergence of COVID-19 globally, we imagine the near future to continue seeing multiple resurgences of the virus such that social interaction will evolve to adapt to a new normal of expanded personal boundaries and physical distance. In addition, the periodic tightening and easing of COVID-19 regulations calls for indoor dining spaces to be flexible in their accommodation and transparent in their operations.
Adaptive boundares
Our Proposed solution
Our goal is to be able to retain the social aspect of dining in a public space and maintain the restaurant’s ambience and quality of hospitality, while providing more flexibility and transparency in their typical operations. To achieve this, the seating arrangement and circulation have been reconfigured so as to adhere to social distancing guidelines and varying restrictions to capacity that are imposed. Additionally, to address the increase in pick-up and delivery from restaurants, the design attempts to streamline this service by designating a portion of the space to this operation near the entrance.
Responding to imposed limits, we imagine a near future where social interaction has evolved to adapt to a new normal of expanded personal boundaries and physical distance. The experience of dining in a post-pandemic world raises questions about more than just adaptability. We surveyed people to understand their preferences and fears so we could rethink the restaurant ecosystem and design solutions that best address their pain points. The design serves an indoor fine dining restaurant. Due to the pandemic, fine dining businesses have suffered significant losses as they struggle to serve the same level of hospitality and comfort while also ensuring the safety of their customers. Since these spaces are a typology where users spend a significant amount of time outside their homes, we wanted to understand the apprehensions of dining out and address these concerns so as to better equip restaurants to regain their customers’ trust.
  • Circulation and wayfinding are a must post-COVID. The design needs to ensure that people follow paths in an efficient manner.
  • Constant changes in COVID-19 regulations requires an easy transition between different capacities, aided by the design of the space.
  • Gaining the trust of the customer is one of the biggest pain points all owners face. Preparedness and transparency of operations are key.
the challenges
  • On-the-feet thinking has led to temporary solutions, especially as regulations have pushed and pulled, and will continue to fluctuate as we slowly make our way to a new normal.
  • Through COVID-19 we've seen less focus on the design of the space and more on functionality and flexibility to enhance profitability.
  • There is a higher risk of spreading COVID-19 indoors., making design and preparedness essential for restaurants to be able to survive.
Existing restaurant plan
Existing solutions
The challenge of making a space adaptive calls for modularity.
We designed a module of expandable, multi-layered, translucent screens to function as a partition and physical demarcation of the required distance between dining groups, as well as, to serve as a design feature within the restaurant. The translucency of acrylic panels provides a sufficient level of privacy and they can be flexed, along a ceiling-mounted track, to accommodate the varying distance requirements, upto a maximum of six feet (the most stringent requirement in NYC). Indoor circulation is also informed by the positioning of these modules as they encourage people to use the way-finding aisles to navigate through the space. We imagine these panels to be customizable so as to be compatible with the restaurants’ original design and character.
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