More rubber is hitting the road in the quest to get back to work safely. More than half of U.S. states have started to reopen their economies, with more expected to join them in the weeks ahead. Wisconsin abruptly joined the ranks of the former when its Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers's stay-at-home order, sending crowds of people out to the bars that decided to open ahead of the previously scheduled May 26 state reopening.

One of the hardest hit segments of the economy, devastated early and maybe the most thoroughly, has been the restaurant and bar business. Working on small margins to begin with, and often with little safety net for employees or a slow week (much less months), restaurants also face one of the hardest prospects for how they can reopen safely, while still preserving an appropriate revenue stream. In response to that, Boston- and Rwanda-based MASS Design Group has released a new plan, “The Role of Architecture in Fighting COVID-19: Spatial Strategies for Restaurants in Response to COVID-19,” specifically addressing design solutions for the dine-in restaurant industry. Founded a decade ago “in response to an epidemic disease—extremely drug resistant tuberculosis—whose airborne transmission was exacerbated by spatial conditions of hospital wards and waiting areas,” MASS has been bringing their expertise home to the United States since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic.

In this new paper, the firm first lays out some design strategies to “guide restaurants as they work towards reopening safely, viably, and vibrantly.” These important considerations are: “evaluate new food safety and sanitation protocols as spatial challenges”; “examine the spaces of your restaurant with flexible reconfiguration in mind”; “understand that the 6-foot rule is not a solution inside restaurants”; “expand into the street and reclaim the restaurant’s role in the public realm”; and “design for trust.” The firm further details each step, and then puts them all together in case studies of two Boston-area restaurants.

Courtesy MASS Design Group

Here are some stories that we were following this week ...

Impact on Architecture and the Built Environment

The U.S. Green Building Council is joining the call to getting everyone back to work safely. Its latest publication, “Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy,” outlines “a series of actions and priorities that will support the global recovery effort and leverage the power of our community to shape a healthier future for all.” The organization describes some steps it’s taking now, such as upgrading to LEED v4.1 in light of the COVID-19 epidemic and accelerating its work on the USGBC Equity program, which was begun at the 2019 Greenbuild in Atlanta. [USGBC]

Photograph by Francesco Noferini, Courtesy Caret Studio

With Italy slowly reopening, the region of Tuscany has designated 1.8 meters (about 6 feet) as the guideline for safe social distancing. So that’s what Caret Studio used for its temporary StoDistante installation at Vicchio’s Piazza Giotto. “Conceived as a platform or citizens to reclaim and reactivate open spaces,” the plan is being tested in the Piazza Giotto, but can be rolled out to other public areas. [Caret Studio]

Venture capital firm Shadow Ventures is hosting an AEC/RE Virtual Pitchathon over Zoom on June 2–3 that “that will connect a global community of investors, architects, engineers, contractors, and real estate professionals with 60-plus pre-seed to Series B startups offering groundbreaking innovation in their market segments.” The five areas of focus are DesignTech, ConTech, EnviroTech, PropTech, and InfraTech. Want to be a presenter or buy tickets to attend? You have until May 20 to sign up. [ARCHITECT]

On May 11, the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany, started reopening to the public, first with Frank Gehry, FAIA’s Vitra Design Museum and the museum shops, followed by the café and deli. Herzog & de Meuron’s VitraHaus is undergoing a renovation, which is scheduled to be completed for its 10-year anniversary this summer, but you can check out the building’s ground floor now. “During the re-opening process on the Vitra Campus,” writes the museum on its website, “the safety and health of both visitors and employees will continue to be of utmost priority. Comprehensive safety and hygiene concepts have been implemented in accordance with governmental regulations and in consultation with a medical task force, in order to provide maximum protection for campus visitors and employees.” [Vitra]

It’s a dingus ... you know, for kids! Just because we can’t gather as larger groups in closed theaters doesn’t mean that we can’t still “go” to a film festival. Or at least that's the premise behind Chicago Architecture Center’s idea for Celluloid Skylines: An At-Home Architectural Film Festival. Watch the movies on your own time (and dime) and then attend the post-screening discussions over Zoom, led by a guest expert. (Tickets are $9 each or $27 for a four-ticket package, or $7 and $21 for CAC members.) The four consecutive days of flicks kick off on Friday, May 22 with my all-time fave, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, hosted by Los Angeles’s Christopher Hawthorne. Then Kogonada’s Columbus, hosted by director of Exhibit Columbus Anne Surak on Saturday. Marcus Robinson’s An Engineer Imagines is on Sunday, and Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Hudsucker Proxy on Monday, hosted by historian Jean L. Guarino. [Chicago Architecture Center]

Building and Construction

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a much bigger focus on indoor air quality than there was even a few months ago. [BUILDER]

Construction starts declined 25%, March to April. Last month, nonresidential building starts fell 37% from the month before, and residential fell 25%. The decline in nonbuilding construction was less dramatic, at 5%, because of more work on streets and bridges. [BUILDER]

About 1 in 4 home list prices is being discounted now, with a larger percentage occurring for houses listed for more than $600,000. The number of home sellers leaving the market is decreasing, leading to some hope that more houses will start going back on the market. [BUILDER]

A big question for the pool and spa business: how to clean and sanitize to protect against coronavirus transmission? Longtime aquatics consultant Alison Osinski discusses the nature of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and how to remove it from a space. [POOL AND SPA NEWS]

Other Notable Stories

We're learning more about COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV-2 virus each day. Since the virus only recently jumped to humans, that means there’s a lot to learn. We do know that it acts more widely on the body and mind than a simple respiratory disease, with potentially some long-lasting deleterious effects like permanent lung scarring, heart damage, strokes and other organ failure from blood clotting, neurological issues like loss of smell, and much more. For (a lot) more, check out two extensive primers on the subject: from Lois Parshley over at Vox, and from Lenny Bernstein and Ariana Eunjung Cha over at The Washington Post.

Spy, Spot, Spy: Boston Dynamics’s Spot robot has been tasked with patrolling Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in Singapore to “broadcast a recorded message reminding park visitors to observe safe distancing measures.” And, yes, we now live in a William Gibson novel ... [The Straits Times]



Hanley Wood publications are working together to track how state-by-state mandates are affecting the construction and building materials supplier industries. We’re updating the map and the data as they develop, so bookmark this page and check in often. [ARCHITECT]

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic knows no bounds, and architecture has not been immune. In order to contain costs, may firms within and outside of architecture are implementing wage reductions, staff furloughs, and, most painfully, layoffs. Here's what you need to know and ask if you're on the giving or receiving end of such a move. [ARCHITECT]

The Penn Wharton Budget Model is tracking the economic effects of the coronavirus policy response, and has a simulator to predict the effects of when and how states lift stay-at-home restrictions and reopen their economies. The predictions range from keeping all lockdowns in place through the end of June, which would bring the COVID-19 death toll to 117,000 and reduce national GDP to 12% lower than what it was a year before, to a full immediate reopening, which could push the death count to nearly a million people by the end of June. [Penn Wharton]

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, in Seattle, a research institute founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is tracking and projecting the spread and peak of COVID-19 through the United States, as well as projected numbers of deaths in each state, as measured by needed hospital capacity. [IHME]

Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering has a worldwide real-time tracker of the spread of the virus and its impact. [CSSE]

On the Way Out ...

Not only are we all planning to be getting back to work this summer, but some old favorites are gearing up to make a comeback too.

That’s it for this week. As always, stay safe out there, wash your hands, and wear your masks. We’ll see you here again next week.