Social-distancing Ideas Spur Creativity in Europe

Forward-thinking designers and businesses across the continent offer a glimpse of how post-pandemic life might look for us all.

Milan’s Parco Sempione would be an ideal test bed for C’entro. (Source: SBGA Blengini Ghiradelli)

A DIY Social-distancing Kit for Open Spaces

Cat-owners are bound to get a kick out of this novel idea. Responding to a call online by Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala to think of ways the city might reopen after lockdown, Italian design studio SBGA Blengini Ghiradelli has come up with a portable social-distancing frame inspired by the technology of camping tents. Named C’entro, after an Italian expression with multiple meanings such as “I’m in” and “I’m involved,” the conceptual kit is made up of fiberglass rods that come with elastic connectors to create a hoop large enough for two people to sit on the ground, while a 1.5-meter-long spacer shows users the appropriate distance to keep from other residents in fiberglass circles. Should C’entro make it off the drawing board, each set will weigh approximately 500 grams, and its folded pieces will fit in a reasonably small bag.


A rendering of Precht’s conceptual Park de la Distance, proposed for Vienna. (Source: Precht)

The Park Designed to Keep People Apart

In April, Austria-based architecture firm Precht released a proposal for a vacant plot in Vienna, converting it to what it calls Parc de la Distance, a contemporary hedge maze that takes inspiration from French baroque design and Japanese Zen gardens. The fingerprint-like layout of the park was specifically created to ensure a safe distance between visitors: hedges 90 centimeters wide delineate six winding 600-meter routes—all with a small fountain at the halfway point—that would allow for relaxing 20-minute strolls. Gates would be installed at the entrances to each walking route and show whether each one was occupied or available to use. If built, the hedge maze would offer a temporary escape for cooped-up Vienna residents faced with the wholesale closure of parks and other outdoor spaces across the city.


Patrons at Mediamatic Eten, a restaurant in Amsterdam. (Photo: Anne Lakeman/Mediamatic)

Dining Out in Private Greenhouses

Over in Amsterdam, one progressive restaurant has already trialed a quintet of canal-side greenhouses known as Serres Séparées, allowing patrons to abide by social distancing measures without sacrificing on style or views of the Oosterdok, an historic dock area now brimming with contemporary architecture. Plant-based venue Mediamatic Eten is offering dedicated spaces built for two, in a move that protects guests “from the outside and others while offering a unique experience of intimate dining.” Since the new setup was announced last week, Serres Séparées have proved so popular they are booked solid until the end of June. The experience does not come cheap, however: Mediamatic Eten is charging €100 for two (around US$108) for a four-course dinner; customers will receive a full refund should their reservations be canceled due to adverse weather conditions or lockdown measures.


Factorydesign’s social-distancing screens for economy-class cabins. (Source: Factorydesign)

A Transformed Middle Seat on Planes

One London-based creative design agency is now developing an innovative solution to address the psychological need for further separation between passengers in the short- to medium-term as less travelers take to the skies. Factorydesign has unveiled its plan to retrofit economy-class seats across both narrow- and wide-body jets with a social-distancing screen made of translucent thermoplastic to give passengers more peace of mind while allowing light to pass through. Affixed to the unused middle seat, these minimalistic additions to the aircraft cabin would be bolted to position and supported by the armrests. A lightweight table top provides extra space for those seated on either side, and it features a holder with space for a personal amenity kit that could include a mask, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer.

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