A home can be defined as an organised geometrical space, but, above all, a subjective, identitary indoor space, designed around the body of its inhabitant and his or her biological rhythms, habits, behaviour.
Specific individual and group behaviours are defined, inside the physical living space, by many factors: a succession of wakeful and sleeping moments, eating, hygiene rituals, relationships, inclination towards sociality or solitude.
Up until a decade ago the image of the at-home family was inspired by the industrial society, based on the father-son relationship, that had generated the urban category of the apartment, considered the foundation for the ideology behind the twentieth century architectural culture, alongside the industrial design. In Italy this originated, in the 50s, nationwide big state interventions on public residential housing planning, called INA-Casa.
Between the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century the domestic landscape goes through radical transformations: the classic identification between home and family gradually fades out, not on a positional level, as the home is still considered a topographic and social landmark, but on a situational level, with a tendency towards the disaggregation of the family unit, a transformation of the relationship between indoor and outdoor, a change in domestic behaviour, due to the introduction of increasingly more sophisticated technologies. There is almost a fragmentation of family relationships, evolving in new cohabitation schemes and new personas (the working single, the student, the couple, the couple with kids, separated couples with kids and their new partners, older couples and older singles). Ultimately the architectural image of the home is not directly connected to the image of the traditional family anymore.
This issue has been highlighted by the quarantine situation we are facing today. What are we learning from Coronavirus? “That we live in homes objectively inhospitable and unsuitable, not only for the current emergency, but also for the needs of modern life: we have been using our homes as hotels, only to spend the night, while all our life was spent outside the house”, Florentine architect Casamonti recently declared (Corriere Fiorentino La Toscana 19 Aprile 2020, page 8). We would need a more sustainable and more sociable lifestyle. The paradox is that nowadays we buy and order everything online (even more so during the quarantine) and therefore every day we receive boxes of every size and shape, but we still have a mailbox designed for letter bills only. The current smart working needs proved that we usually don’t have enough spaces inside our home that are suitable for this purpose, so we are forced to improvise, working from the kitchen table or from the sofa, trying to set up a nice backdrop for the incoming video call.
This forced reclusion highlighted all the limits our homes have, and made us dream of outdoor areas, wide spaces, bigger rooms, indoor gyms, smart-working stations. In the past we always sacrificed the entrance to make room for the kitchen or the living room; now, instead, we covet a neutral space to avoid direct contact with delivery men, a sort of decontamination area that make us feel protected. Moreover we appreciate, now more than ever, how crucial some green space is, how vital it can be to spend time outdoor on the balcony, on the rooftop, on the terrace, looking out onto the world. And it’s not necessary to live in Bosco verticale in Milan in order to give new value to the benefits a small green area can provide for us and for our city, constantly burdened by high density population and the consequent pollution it creates. It would be ideal to have less cars and more green space; to increase the outdoor space also at home. It’s not surprising that a few months ago, looking at the real estate market, a house in the heart of the city, in residential areas, had a great value, and it was destined to gain even more in time. Due to the current pandemic the perception of value has overturned, and today a house is considered desirable, habitable and valuable based on completely different criteria. “The new needs caused by the consequences of the health crisis will change the demand. People, and especially families, will choose a bigger apartment with a terrace or a garden in a less central area rather than a smaller apartment in the heart of the city.” (Il Sole 24Ore, April 19th 2020, page 9).
These considerations are crucial during what can be considered a social, cultural and economic revolution, in order for the Architect, who traditionally creates living styles, to be at the center of the most coveted process: the transformation of this challenging and difficult times into a great opportunity for the development of new lifestyle models, as a response to all the requests of our current society.
architetto Nina Russo