Architects, designers reinvent our cities in the era of COVID-19

Before entering our house, we will have to go through a “mud room,” where we can leave our dirty shoes and soiled jackets, caps and whatnots. This doubles as a disinfection or sanitation area so we don’t bring bacteria from outside into the house.

We never have to leave home for work because our home is now our office, too, as digital technology becomes a part of everyday living.

Physical fitness will literally be just a stretch away as more people opt to install their own little dream gym or exercise room in their homes.

More and more condos will rise with atriums and balconies brimming with greenery. Likewise, we will see the greening of our crowded, and polluted cities, with vertical gardens springing up everywhere.

Picture pedestrian-friendly bridges over our rivers. Imagine elevated walkways on traffic-ridden EDSA. And bike-friendly and walkable communities dotting our cities.

These are some images conjured by architect and urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox, Jr., architects Angelo “Gelo” Mañosa and Abelardo “Jojo” Tolentino, and interior designer Chat Fores in a recent Enderun webinar on reshaping our cities, buildings and homes, and making them pandemic-ready under the new normal.

The four property professionals form the advisory board of the College of Architecture and Design that Enderun Colleges is launching this month.


Ed Rodriguez, president of Enderun, cites the ways COVID-19 will change architecture and how smart city planning can slow down future pandemics.

“The new college’s focus is moving out of architecture designs’ comfort zones into new urgent realities and challenges of resilience, climate change, and innovation.”

Palafox, who’s had 40-plus years of experience in urban planning, proposes constructing pedestrian bridges along rivers and making our cities more walkable and bike-friendly. “Those who have less in wheels should have more in roads,” he asserts. “Smart city planning integrates social, environmental, and economic rules — it’s people-centric, resilient, well-connected, accessible, more convenient, socially inclusive, livable, safer, cleaner, better lighted. The most sustainable and people-centric are walking and using bicycles.”

Building on his father Bobby Mañosa’s legacy in local architecture, Gelo Mañosa goes back to the fundamentals of the humble bahay kubo. “My dad’s bahay kubo philosophy is actually a very green structure in itself. He kind of Forrest Gumped his way into really developing local indigenous, green structures which, back then, he just called Philippine architecture. Green architecture is simply good design. It’s doing things properly, doing things right. It’s looking at all facets of a design that make it green — from your energy conservation and water conservation to your indoor air quality, your recyclable materials, your method of building, there are many levels.”


Mañosa takes us to a post-COVID world, where our house is not the same anymore. “The open-floor plan, which combines the living room, dining room, kitchen, and other parts of the house, will change. Open planning will prove to be a hindrance for a home that shares things like office spaces, learning spaces for the kids, entertainment spaces. For instance, Dad’s home office can’t really intermingle with Mom’s work space. At the same time, makeshift home school areas become playrooms. And so, the flexibility of using partitions, movable dividers, and transformable furniture will allow for better flexibility in design.”

He adds, “Foyers and mud rooms will become one of the new norms. We never really needed mud rooms in the tropics as we don’t have the problem of snow and wet clothing getting into our house. But I do foresee that such a room can be used as a disinfection or sanitation room prior to anybody entering the house. Alternatively, the integration of large foyers, complete with cabinets, shoe-racking systems, and lavatories can be acceptable for some of our residential houses.”

Quarantined at home, with life looking dull and grey, many have turned to gardening, whether they have a green thumb or not. “There will be a growing trend of garden spaces, no matter how small, within a home,” notes Mañosa.

Just as necessary, Mañosa points out, is the exercise room, what with more restrictions in fitness centers. Home gyms and workout areas will be just as important as a home office.


“In line with the movement of architecture, interior design has to move forward as well,” says Chat Fores whose design studio specializes in creating illusions of big spaces. “With the current situation we’re in, we’re spending about 100 percent of our lives in our homes — this is where we work, play and sleep. With this in mind, we have to adapt and to adjust, we have to make our spaces more functional, more efficient, without having to sacrifice the main purpose of our house, which is for us to relax and bond with our family. So, we have to put all these functions together. Now, if you have the benefit of space, by all means create your own study bedroom, library, function and theater rooms. But if you just have a small space, there are many things you have to consider, such as rearranging your layout and fixing your furniture space. One thing you can do is to start using furniture that can adapt to change as well, or what we call transformer-type furniture or smart furniture. For instance, you can make a bed a bit more functional so that it’s where you can watch TV, study, sleep, actually do everything within the space. Have an exercise machine that you can tuck into your cabinet. A sofa that converts to an actual full-size bed. You don’t have to sacrifice the size of your furniture, keep that size, but take away the clutter or things you don’t need.”

These pieces of furniture are very adaptable. “With these, young people can work anywhere—on the sofa, on a kitchen counter, even the balcony,” Fores elaborates. “You can fit everything into a 55-sqm-long space. Your furniture doesn’t always have to be utilitarian looking — you can have more classic pieces, input your artwork or use more luxurious finishes like copper, Macassar ebony, metallic abaca. Small spaces don’t have to look so boring.”


Arch. Jojo Tolentino, founder, CEO and president of Aidea Inc., a front-runner and expert on Virtual Design and Construction, says the rule of technology is for us to lessen the work that’s repetitive.

“At present, the traditional way people see designers is that we’re technical experts, contractors, and project managers. But in the future, we will see designers not only as professionals or experts but we should also be integrators and strategists, design thinkers. Our scope will become bigger — we’re creativity consultants, technology providers; we use data a lot, we have an understanding of programming.”

So, how can architecture move forward after the pandemic?

In no uncertain terms, Mañosa tells us, “There’s no one master architectural solution to moving forward after the pandemic. As American architect Elizabeth Diller said, ‘The pandemic is a problem that is going to be solved by medicine and not cured by architecture.’ I believe post-pandemic architecture carries a social, economic, moral problem. We can’t find a solution without the help of all our other friends in the industry — from the government to the private sector to the academe. Looking forward, we must look into ourselves and create architecture that’s sustainable, local, flexible, adaptive, responsive, and carries moral ethics rather than architecture based on one’s ego.”