10 Extraordinary Architectural Drawings That Explore Life During the Pandemic

How can architectural drawings serve as a metaphor and conduit for the new spatial and social realities created by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Hannah Feniak Hannah Feniak


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Architizer’s One Drawing Challenge was founded on the premise that powerful stories can be told through the language of architecture. The turbulent nature of 2020 provided ample inspiration for entrants, with many drawings forming a fascinating visual commentary on a wide range of world events. In particular, many entries contemplated the immense social and existential upheavals brought on by the COVID–19 pandemic, using architecture as a metaphor for the mental responses to the experience of quarantine, as well as a conduit to explore the new physical realities of domestic and public space.

The following 10 drawings demonstrate the power of drawing, not only to reflect on present circumstances and develop ideas for the future but also as creative process for exploring alternative realities in a moment of immense upheaval. Be sure to click on the images in order to zoom in and to fully appreciate their intricate details!

architectural drawing covid 19 pandemicTogether Alone by Yee Bless, Handel Architects

In her winning entry, Yee Bless illustrated our collective process of redefining what it means to be “together.”  When social distancing drove us into our homes, almost paradoxically, our shared experiences of isolation and distance were the preconditions for an unprecedented collective focus on social issues that shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to be magnified.

This sectional depiction of inhabitable hexagonal pod at first may appear otherworldly; however, their unusual shape “represents our self-proclaimed strength and efficiency around our designs, the same efficiency that circulated the virus with rapid speed.” The hive-like framework is under immense pressure — the barriers between the pods are beginning to crumble, their forms warping under the weight of the new circumstances. At first glance, the simultaneous proximity and separateness of the subterranean pods evokes the pandemic phenomenon of social “bubbles;” however, upon closer inspection, the various breakdowns between the homes create opportunities for new and more expansive spaces. Indeed, those that have lost their walls show true forms of togetherness.

architectural drawing covid 19 pandemicPerpetual Home by Kate Korotayeva

In the wake of the stay-at-home-orders, Kate Korotayeva drew this monstrous modernist house. It was a response to a moment when “the limits of home became a battleground for our work selves, social selves, sexual selves, creative selves, and other ways we choose to manifest our humanity.” The result was a creative vision of an almost anthropomorphic home, with aging technological parts and tumorous appendages that threaten to engulf it.

The image is one of transformation that is equal parts alarming and intriguing; it expresses the unstoppable merging of our bodies and technology that took place within domestic spaces, irrevocably altering our definition of “home” in the process. The image is almost a warning, Korotayeva says that “after years of socially distanced existence, this home has illegitimately transformed itself into a monster, constantly changing to meet professional, sexual, aesthetic, creative, and other needs of its confined owner.”

architectural drawing covid 19 pandemicHere Everywhere by Hans Villamayor

This cut-away drawing explores how extended quarantine throws our lifestyles out of balance. Returning to the “delirious experiences of disturbed places at the height of lockdown,” Hans Villamayor explores how our homes became production sites for the proliferation of paradox and, potentially, cognitive dissonance: we were both social and/or distant; cozy and/or claustrophobic; and isolated and/or connected. The result was a blurring of distinctions between spaces and dimensions (public and private, for instance), wherein architecture and everyday objects took on a multitude of new meanings.

architectural drawing covid 19 pandemicArchicov19 by angela ruiz plaza

This utopian drawing imagines an invasive architectural organism that behaves like an ecosystem. Made out of fungi, bacteria and nature, Archicov-19 “can solidify sand, or float amid clouds, parasite old cities or dive into the sea.” Yet, because of it, “earth can finally breathe, and we live happy and healthy in its bubbles.” The artist uses the metaphor to meditate on the positive life changes that many have made in the wake of terrible and overwhelming upheaval; it is an hopeful image that imagines a world where bio-architecture promotes balance in many aspects of human life.


architectural drawing covid 19 pandemicView of Apartment #5, a Labyrinth and Repository of Spatial Memories by Clement Laurencio, University College London (UCL), Bartlett School of Architecture

For many people locked inside of their homes during the pandemic, travel only existed in distant memories or future dreams — either way, travel was reduced to a form of mental escapism. With all of the uncertainty around borders and the future, many took refuge in past experiences in faraway places from the comfort of their homes. Clement Laurencio’s drawing explores this phenomenon, depicting a British dwelling that “curates spatial experiences from a recent voyage to India.” The blurring of real space and imaginary space brilliantly illustrates the way this palimpsestic atmosphere, wherein familiar spaces were experienced through new filters, allowed the past to become “embellished, corrupted, re-imagined; a labyrinth of memories…”

H.D.D by Brent Haynes

The pandemic heightened our spatial awareness, especially within the public realm. With endless lineups that came as byproducts of social distancing, also came new urban “decorations,” in the form of paint and stickers, that have physically transformed our shared spaces. In response, Brent Haynes drew Harpurhey’s Density with Distance (H.D.D) as a way of exploring “a new urban typology that turns social distancing protocols into an asset for Highstreet revitalization.” Three-story, tri-axial sliders are lined up to dominate the street, creating new urban system that is both high-tech and pro-consumeristic. The artist asks, “What if we could turn these waiting irritations into memorable experiences and furthermore, integrate spatial distancing measures into an urban aesthetic?”

Secret Gardens by Carol Hsiung

Carol Hsiung’s drawing accepts that architecture must adapt to the current pandemic in order to prepare urban residents for similar future health crises. In her vision, our cities will become more introverted, with entire housing blocks turning inward to become secure, self-contained communities. As she states, “these new communities provide a comprehensive array of well-monitored, shared amenities while contact with the outside world is limited to virtual meetings and drone deliveries.” At the same time, these spaces will be biophilic havens that nurture nature, with creeping vines and gurgling water that imbue the concrete monoliths with vitality, inspiring a newfound respect for the natural world and providing health, comfort and joy.

architectural drawing covid 19 pandemicSailing in the sea of uncertainty of a pandemic by Daniel Laredo

Daniel Laredo captures the topsy-turvy experience of last year’s upheaval when the distinction between home and office life became blurred. His hybrid boat-buildings have been turned upside-down along with the rest of the world. Yet, this is not necessarily an apocalyptic image; although the house-boats are sailing in the sea of uncertainty, they are doing so collectively. As the artist puts it, “all of us are going in the same direction as a team that keeps together no matter how hard the situation is. We sail together through uncertainty.”

Endless Interior by John Stoughton

“Rather than seeing the outside world through the frustratingly tiny pixels of a Zoom video conference window,” John Stoughton asks, “what if your and my respective worlds immersively collided together?” In response, he drew a world of overlapping domestic interiors, where the virtual surface of one home bleeds into another. Intimate memorabilia are suddenly accessible, wallpapers comparable and sofas communal. While facades were once the public face of our homes (or, as Adolf Loos would have it, masks behind which one could retreat), now, our once-private homes have become public, on Zoom and other virtual media, and those interiors are “completely saturated with history and media.”

architectural drawing covid 19 pandemicZoo³ by Jimmy Hung

While the origins of the virus remain cloaked in mystery, scientists largely content that it was passed from animals to humans. In a future where this type of transmission is likely to become more frequent, Jimmy Hung asks how architecture can protect animals from humans. His drawing creates a zoo on the waterfront in Toronto; its hourglass shapes each offer a unique climatic habitat. More than just a building, this proposes an ecosystem wherein “water is pumped to an irrigation and pond system that flows back into the aquarium creating a large aquaponic system.” The result is an expansive environment set in a spiral structure where animals are free to roam.


Feast your eyes on the world's most outstanding architectural photographs, videos, visualizations, drawing and models with the winners of Architizer's inaugural Vision Awards. Sign up to receive future program updates >  


Hannah Feniak Author: Hannah Feniak
Hannah Feniak is Architizer’s Managing Editor. When she’s not leading our talented team of writers and interviewing the industry’s most innovative designers, Hannah is likely to be found exploring the latest exhibition openings. A trained art historian and educator with a focus on architecture and urbanism, Hannah holds degrees from McGill University in Montreal and NYU.
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