Returning to Public Space Pop-up Installations to Break Down Isolation and Social Anxiety After the Covid-19 Pandemic

Liang, Junyu
Douglas, Carl
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Master of Design
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Auckland University of Technology

The COVID-19, a new form of coronavirus, outbreak began at the beginning of 2020 and lasted much longer than we anticipated; until today, the world is still under the impact of such a virus.

Many countries adopted a 'Lock-down' approach to prevent public transmission of the virus for public safety measures. However, "Human beings are born social." (Julian Baggini, 2014) and individuals being forced into long-term isolation can find their mental health being significantly impacted; "research shows significant negative effects." (Anxiety NZ Trust, 2020) Social Anxiety is one of the common mental health issues that can arise from such situations. "Some people will feel paralyzing anxiety about resuming their normal activities after being in a fear mode for more than a year" (McBride, 2021).

This research explores how to help people with Social Anxiety caused by the COVID-19 return to their previous lives before the pandemic comfortably and softly. Without forceful interactions between audiences. It does this by proposing pop-up community activity spaces designed according to principles of proxemics and atmosphere.

The basis of my research is anthropologist Edward T. Hall's idea of 'proxemics', a model for understanding social distance. As a speculative project, my goal is to help those impacted, post-disaster reconstruction and community-building; utilizing spatial design to contribute to restoring this sense of connection, 'mastery of their world' and well-being. I propose a temporary intervention that can be moved from place to place, activating existing public spaces in new ways. My design references include post-disaster reconstruction designs such as the Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch and pop-up structures more generally.

The proposal consists of a portable, modular wall system that draws people closer and frames social activities. The wall is used for knotting shengjie, markers of social connection, and invitations to participate in space-making. It also includes chairs and tables designed to host various activities, including eating and playing. Space will evolve during its installation, making visible the idea of people gathering and uniting.

Returning to Public Space , Pop-up installations , Social anxiety , COVID-19 , Proxemics
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