Photo by heather mckean on Unsplash

With the need for human contact more apparent than ever, Make Architects is reimagining the built environment as a way to reunite societies and restore human connections in the post-COVID-19 world.

The Sydney-based architecture studio is calling for more community focused cities in an age of urban loneliness, one that has been growing long before mandated isolation. According to the ABC’s 2019 Australia Talks survey, Australians living in inner metropolitan areas are more likely to experience occasional, frequent or constant loneliness than those in rural communities.

“Progression and sophistication as a society has led us to an increasing focus on the individual,” NSW government architect Abbie Galvin said. “As our cities densify, this approach needs to shift toward one that is more community centric.”

Make Architects recently challenged university students in Sydney to design innovative ways to encourage social interaction and combat loneliness.

The winning team from the University of Sydney proposed creating uncommon community spaces in public transportation centres to both shift Sydney away from its car centric model and get commuters to disconnect with their phones.

Their project, “InTransit”, used refurbished tram carriages for public spaces such as cafes or gardens to encourage commuter engagement with the built environment. Team member Simone Carmody described it as “a ‘hub’ that blends with the city to create a new urban space open to all.”

Galvin, a judge for the competition, praised the plan for its simple but clear approach to “take something mundane and make it delightful.”

While the contest took place before social distancing requirements, these designs to reunite and revitalise city communities provide a vital path forward in helping people reconnect in pandemic’s aftermath.

“There are lessons to be learned from this crisis, including the understanding that with the right technology and design tools, social isolation does not have to result in loneliness,” Make’s Sydney studio lead Simon Lincoln said.

“When designing our future cities, as architects we have a responsibility to prioritise designs that bring citizens and communities closer together. Eradicating loneliness is a lofty ambition but, for the long-term wellbeing of society, it is an essential aspiration.”