CHANGES: Pandemic as a war

Mariana Díaz

Universidad Central de Venezuela

Caracas, Venezuela


The current world pandemic brought devastation into the heart of the world, millions of people have died, billions of people have gotten sick, society has had to keep themselves in quarantine in their own homes, away from their family and friends. “the coronavirus has introduced a ‘new normal’, changing our perceptions and altering our priorities. Driven towards questioning and evaluating our environment, we are constantly reacting and anticipating a relatively unknown future”. (Harrouk, 2020).

Social isolation, the grim cousin of social distancing. The pandemic (…) has raised in people’s minds the problem of how to deal with the large number of elderly people living alone (…) loneliness does nothing positive for either their physical or their mental health. Governments (…) are incapable of writing laws that overcome the loneliness which the imposition of social distancing creates. This is a challenge instead for urban civil society, one for which we are going to need new concepts of community (Richard Sennett, 2020)

Lebbeus Woods wrote and published a book called ‘War and Architecture’, in 1993, it raised controversy for, in his own words, it was “accused of ‘aestheticizing violence’, and merely being exploitative of a tragic human condition”. He recognized that he was to blame, hence, fifteen years later, in 2011, a year before his death, he wrote an article trying to correct said ‘failure’, in which he exposes three principles thought by himself of how the reconstruction of a city can be carried on after such catastrophe. To think objectively, the word ‘war’ shall be replaced by the word ‘pandemic’ and everything Woods (2011) has said is still applicable: 


The First PrincipleRestore what has been lost to its pre-war condition. The idea is to restore ‘normalcy,’ where the normal is the way of living lost as a result of the war. The idea considers the war as only an interruption of an ongoing flow of the normal.

The Second Principle: Demolish the damaged and destroyed buildings and build something entirely new. This ‘new’ could be something radically different from what existed before, or only an updated version of the lost pre-war normal. (…)

The Third Principle: The post-war city must create the new from the damaged old (…)  the new ways of living will not be the same as the old, the reconstruction of old buildings must enable new ways and ideas of living. The familiar old must be transformed, by conscious intention and design, into the unfamiliar new. (Woods, 2011)


The pandemic that has occurred in the entire world it is not a war, and it is no pretended to be taken as such in this essay, the text expressed by Woods was about the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia, after it was wrecked in its war, the text has been taken from its literal meaning into a metaphor; as in a war in this pandemic there existed a ‘normal’ before it happened and will exist afterwards a ‘new-normal’. The lives of everyone has been altered irrevocably because of its existence, every citizen of the world wishes to return to their ‘normal’, but such thing won’t happen, what has happened -and what is still happening- because of the pandemic is not something that can be erased from history, trauma is never deleted is cared for in order for progress to success. 

In the first principle, Woods expresses the idea of restoring the normalcy of lives before the traumatic event happened; schools, public places, work places, entertainment venues will open again, life will move onto its next chapter. 

In the second principle, he speaks about demolishing what is no longer useful -or should be used- and building something new; new ideas, new projects, that could prevent a similar situation that the one is happening right now in the future. Could be something like new modes of cafeterias and disposition of food; new systems of public transportation or replacing traffic lanes with pedestrian and cycling paths; creating entrances for public spaces like malls and supermarkets that forces you to wash your hands before entering. Is about installing the ‘new normal’ into the culture of the society, for example in eastern countries it is accustomed -maybe even the norm- to remove your shoes before entering a household, in western countries is not even a notion.  

The third principle is about renewal, make the ‘new’ from the ‘old’; in the context of the pandemic it means updating the old customs and funding medicine studies. In the context of architecture after the pandemic, it means new more dynamic comfortable office spaces, it also means rethinking the concept of home; focusing on health-oriented approaches and creating ideas so that hospitals are able to support more people without risk of contagious diseases, making public spaces more flexible for physical engagement. It means making buildings environmentally friendly and sustainable, buildings that increase sanitary responsiveness. “The principle here is that reconstruction integrates people’s experiences of the destruction into needed social changes, as well as architectural ones” (Lebbeus Woods, 2011)

COVID-19 has affected negatively the lives of everyone’s psychology, social interaction and economic position plus the millions of people whose lives have been lost. It is a catastrophe that hopefully will be isolated, this pandemic has given something in common to every citizen of Earth, and the changes that will import in their lives is only the beginning, but the worse should be over. Is about taking advantage of the ailments of everybody and forcing them to work together to cure it, is creating a “collaborative take on ‘shared’ world-wide challenges, integrating notions of public and personal health, mobility and transportation, environmental psychology, biophilia, and even agriculture ”. (Harrouk, 2020).





Harrouk, C., 2020. Architecture Post COVID-19: The Profession, The Firms, And The Individuals. [online] ArchDaily. Available at:

Sennet, R., 2020. Density In Post-Pandemic Cities. [online] Available at:

Woods, L., 2011. WAR AND ARCHITECTURE: Three Principles. [online] LEBBEUS WOODS. Available at:

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