As New York reopens, we take inspiration from designers who have responded to the COVID crisis with drive, imagination, and honor. Here are a few projects of note:
Brooklyn-based lighting designers Rich Brilliant Willing 3D-printed 10,000 PPE face shields and donated them to healthcare workers. “It’s easy to feel powerless in these times of crisis,” said RBW’s Alex Williams. “We saw an opportunity to harness the power of a private business to solve challenging problems. In any society, government and nonprofits alone cannot solve everything.”
The shields are based on the Budmen Face Shield but were initially time consuming to make. By cutting material consumption in half, RBW was able to speed up production and double the count. In particular, we applaud their idealism in making their CAD files and specs publicly available. Now anyone with a 3D printer can make them.
Toronto-based textile firm Myant seized the opportunity to shift production to mask design. With Myant PPE, the firm addressed the drawbacks of disposable masks: single use, poor fit, and hard to clean. Further drawing on their experience with materials science and biochemistry, they wove in materials that fight off contagion. Myant infused their filters with silver and copper “to maximize protection against bacterial and viral threats.”
Conventional textiles, like cotton found in non medical-grade masks, can inadvertently provide a landing surface for viruses and bacteria, increasing the risk of transmission. Myant’s masks, however, have a hydrophobic outer layer that repels pathogens and stains. Despite the added protection, the mask is surprisingly breathable.
The need for widespread testing is taxing the ability of cities to safely reopen. To meet the exploding demand for testing stations, Brooklyn-based architects SITU adapted the benefits of the suburban drive-thru to an urban, walk-through model. Their screening booths would need to be quick, safe, effective, and able to process as many people as possible. Here is their solution:
“Each booth is equipped with a clear acrylic window that separates spaces for the medical practitioner and the patient. Sealed onto the partition, durable elbow-length gloves allow evaluation and testing of patients without direct contact. The window allows use of various equipment (e.g. stethoscope, pulse-ox, O2 sat, nasal swabs, etc.). The medical practitioner’s side of the booth opens to a controlled space reserved solely for medical staff, thereby reducing the need for already scarce PPE. On the patients’ side, the booth is decontaminated between exams to mitigate exposure for the next user.”
SITU’s prototype has been deployed at medical facilities around the city, giving the designers valuable feedback from working professionals, which they’ve used to refine their design.
Beyond the immediate need for medical equipment, the COVID-19 crisis will change how we live for years to come. Many large companies expect a broad shift to working from home. How will the design of “homes” and “offices” change when the boundary between them blurs? What is the new vision for parks, event spaces, and public transportation? We look forward to seeing what else our colleagues dream up, while generating our own solutions.