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The Response to COVID-19 Takes a Spatial Turn

COVID-19 has made it clear that unequal access to health facilities, along with cost containment, standardisation and the market-driven design of space, comes at an enormous price in human and financial terms. In reacting to the pandemic, architecture can reclaim its impact by conceding its loss of connection with public health, looking beyond Western thinking for its references. Most modern buildings do not have taps anywhere near the entrances, as bathrooms, considered primarily as private places for toilet functions, are located deep within them. The newest coronavirus appears to attach well to modern materials like glass, some metal alloys and plastics. The shiny surfaces most associated with cleanliness are potentially the most risky. A return to traditional house plans such as  the corte or courtyards of Venice, the lapa of Southern Africa and the patio of Latin vernaculars all have an intrinsic function of supporting quarantine if required. South African lists of the indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants include over a dozen commonly used indigenous ones used to alleviate flu symptoms, including umhlonyana or lengana (Artemesia afra), which is cultivated in backyards, and imphepho (Helichrysum species).