VIRUS! Voxel Matrix Park

VIRUS! Voxel Matrix Park (9SG Series 2)  

A “virus” structure that addresses issues of occupying interior space in the current pandemic. The nine-square grid grows into a 27 voxel matrix.

The Problem of “The Interior” in a Pandemic

Interiors have gotten a bad rap lately.  Word on the street is, right now, being inside with strangers is bad for you.  And while a vaccine will, eventually (hopefully) restore confidence in the public, it will be some time before we take the health of interior spaces for granted again.   In all likelihood, the concerns around ventilation and indoor air quality (IAQ) will continue to stay with us long after the pandemic has long passed.  As Interior Designers, your product is interior space, and at the moment, it’s considered toxic.  What will you do to restore confidence in “the interior”. How will you prepare yourself for this professional landscape that you are graduating into? This project will encourage you to explore the boundary of interior and exterior, consider how to create “healthy spaces” that straddle this boundary, and expand the set of tools you have available to you in “making space.”

Pandemics and Modernism

For cues as to how the coronavirus might change interior design, we might look to history.  From 1918 to 1920 another pandemic ravaged the world and had lasting effects on the design of our interiors. The Bauhaus was founded by Walter Gropius in 1919, right in the midst of The Spanish Flu, and has influenced design ever since.  A lesser told side of the Bauhaus story and Modernism after it, was just how much of the aesthetic was born out of the necessity of combating illness.  The clean lines, shiny surfaces, large open spaces, and the predominance of glass, windows, balconies, and roof gardens—these were more than stylistic choices.  These design decisions were just as much about creating hygienic, ventilated, and easily cleanable spaces.  Advances in our understanding of diseases led to new thinking about how environments could promote wellness. The lack of fussy ornamental details meant fewer crevices for dust (and germs) to gather.  The free-flowing open plan spaces, with large windows and multiple connections to the outdoors, meant better circulation of fresh air and light.  The housing solutions proposed by the teachers and students of the Bauhaus were in stark contrast to the small, dark, densely planned tenements and row-houses that city-dwellers had packed themselves in the 100 years since the industrial revolution brought swarms of people to cities around the world.  Their projects influence the design of public housing, private homes, and public spaces for years to come.  How will the experience of the current pandemic influence your work and the interior design in the coming years?


A virus, as many of us are now painfully aware, is a parasitic piece of genetic material that attaches to a host cell for replication.  While the traditional definition of virus usually refers to the physical, biological form, the definition has evolved to include the digital (computer viruses), and even ideas (memes, ideologies).  Viruses, even biological ones, are not considered living things in themselves, as they have no cells, metabolism, or energy production and require a host to reproduce.  Also important for our project, while not all viruses are airborne, the coronavirus certainly is, making air quality and ventilation a key design consideration.

Design Brief

In this second half of the semester, we continue our explorations of “space in the grid” but will move our study from the landscape to the city; from ground to air; from horizontal to vertical.  We will use this next series of studies to create space that attempts to address the current pandemic.  We will consider “the virus” as a jumping-off point for this work.  You will design a structure which is a “virus” itself, that is it will attach to and live off of another building, AND it will be a response to the coronavirus and the current pandemic by providing a hybrid series of indoor/outdoor spaces that provide shelter and programmable space while maintaining appropriate air quality and ventilation to prevent further spread of the virus.. 

Your virus structure will attach to and live off of an existing building.  It will provide varying levels of  partially protected, but mostly open air-ventilated space to work, play, learn, gather, shop(?) during the “age of the virus.” We’ll be exploring issues of atmosphere, people and energy flows, circulation, and activity in multi-use public spaces. We’ll explore the idea of “interior” and push the boundaries of our domain of interior designers into the urban realm in designing a safe interior/exterior space for enjoying public life in the age of the coronavirus.