How pandemics change architecture – Blueprint For Living


Did the influenza pandemic of 1918 kill the Victorian attic? Well, for design and art historian Theodora Philcox, the answer’s a resounding yes.

She says that global pandemic, which killed more than 50 million people, also left a hefty legacy on the 20th-century’s dominant architectural style — modernism.

Gone were the dusty, cloistered spaces of the Victorian period and in came design reminiscent of the hospital ward: gleaming white buildings bathed in sunlight, fitted with easy-to-clean materials such as stainless steel and linoleum.

Even the house of the famed modernist Le Corbusier — the Villa Savoye — had a free-standing sink in the hall and a bidet in the marital bedroom.

Dr Philcox joins Blueprint to walk us through influenza’s influence on this pivotal transition in design history, and what changes may await architecture following our present pandemic.

Dr Philcox’s essay, The sink in the hall: how pandemics transform architecture, is available online for free via the online journal, Psyche.

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