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Science & research / Healthy Cities

Task force to explore built solutions to contain future pandemics

By Andrew Sansom 19 Jun 2020 0

Architects, consultants, medical experts, contractors and architecture students from the University of Southern California (USC) School of Architecture will study COVID-19 to identify infrastructure opportunities as part of a new research initiative.

The newly launched HLW Project Héroe Research Initiative is described as an interdisciplinary task force comprised of architects, consultants, medical experts, contractors, and USC architecture students and recent graduates. It aims to find a built solution to prevent future COVID-19-like outbreaks.

Spearheaded by USC Architecture alumnus David Swartz, and developed in collaboration with architecture firm HLW and the USC Keck School of Medicine, Project Héroe will study how COVID-19 can help identify infrastructures that will thwart future pandemics and allow people to interact unhindered by social distancing. 

Over five weeks, the task force will investigate two key questions: ‘Is there a built solution that can be implemented to stem future outbreaks of a similar virus?’ and ‘What can we do as architects to create an environment where this problem can be solved?’

“My goal with this project is the hope to have an impact on the world and on the safety of our future,” said Swartz, senior partner at HLW. Project Héroe will serve as a paid summer research project for the programme’s six participating researchers–USC students and alumni. All architects, consultants, medical experts and contractors involved are volunteering their time and donating funds to support the project.

“We teach that architects are active participants in their society and can solve a wide range of issues through creative built solutions,” stated Milton S F Curry, dean of the USC School of Architecture. “Project Héroe provides our students with a rare opportunity to put their citizen-focused architectural education into practice to help solve a current global crisis. They can make an immediate impact on our future with their fresh, innovative thinking. We are honoured that HLW and USC Keck School of Medicine elected to collaborate with our students on this timely project.”

Dr Henry Wu, a Keck alumnus and voluntary faculty member who serves on the USC Board of Governors with Swartz, commented: “The medical students who have volunteered for this important project are very excited to collaborate with the USC School of Architecture.

“The medical students and experts will help provide insight into hospital workflow and operations of the clinical space during the current pandemic, and share their creative and innovative ideas for future improvement in an ideal, built solution for public health.”

Currently, $43,500 in funds have been raised from the USC Architectural Guild and local and national firms in the built environment for Project Héroe. 

“For 61 years, the USC Architectural Guild has supported and celebrated the academic achievements, innovation, and professional development of the students of USC Architecture. We’re proud to help fund this initiative that is engaging students in timely, pressing research investigations and design solutions to the post-pandemic world,” said Leslie Young, president of the Guild.