Civic News
COVID-19 / Design / Municipal government

Baltimore’s Design for Distancing guidebook is here to make public health part of the urban landscape

The 10 concepts can help businesses as they expand onto streets and sidewalks during the pandemic. The city-backed resource is designed to help around the world.

The Design for Distancing guidebook considers public health and public spaces. (Courtesy photo)
Baltimore gathered design concepts to help restaurants and retailers activate public spaces in a pandemic. Now, it’s opening up these resources to the world.

City leaders and the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) on Monday released the Design for Distancing Ideas Guidebook, which has 10 concepts for businesses looking to expand onto streets, sidewalks and even vacant lots in a way that aligns with public health guidelines. It’s available for free download so others can use the tactical solutions hatched over the last month.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said it is “Baltimore’s gift to the global community,” adding, “We hope it will be a valuable resource to areas far beyond our city for the recovery of our economy and population.”

Check it out

The guidebook is one outcome of the Design for Distancing competition, which was launched with $1.5 million allocated in late May as leaders sought to provide resources for reopening business during a pandemic. Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) and NDC partnered with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to launch a competition that sought out concepts from creatives and makers. In all, they received 162 submissions, ranging from hand-drawn sketches by children to professional renderings.

The organizers and a stakeholder committee selected the 10 concepts that appear in the guidebook as winners, and provided each with a $5,000 stipend and further partnership with NDC to finalize designs. Many of the creatives behind the designs are from Baltimore, while others are from D.C.; Camp Hill, Pennsylvania; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Those 10 concepts are now in the guidebook, with renderings, schematics and materials lists that include pricing. The teams sought to take the recommendations from Baltimore-based public health experts and represent them spatially.

Among the winners from Baltimore is “Hygiene, Hon,” which was created by Mt. Vernon-based Ziger|Snead Architects and features the team of Doug Bothner, Jeremy Chinnis, Cyrus Lee and Kelly Danz. It’s designed to give businesses opening on the street a framework to provide for hand hygiene and distancing through three main elements:

  • Hand-washing stations with a water reservoir and hands-free foot pedal
  • Graphics and signage that include colored distancing markers spaced six feet apart for a sidewalk, one-way arrows and hand-washing instructions (complete with QR code to see public health guidelines)
  • Hands-free door hardware that has a pull mechanism, which can be operated by reaching around with an arm or the top of a foot

Team members said they spent time and conversations to take it from a concept to figuring out how to build it. For the hand-washing stations, they put in work to consider the time to build and cost.

“By the end of it, we all felt like, this is doable,” said Chinnis.

For the hands-free door hardware, the idea is that pieces could be retrofit to existing hardware, rather than having to change it altogether.

One idea behind the project is to promote activating public spaces. Team members from Ziger|Snead said they gravitated toward the idea of businesses on a block deciding to implement multiple handwashing stations, and nesting them together. That way, they could “work together in multiples,” offering a shared resource, Danz said.

During the process, the team had in mind how the built environment shapes public interaction, Lee said. By promoting hand-washing in a public place, it raises awareness. Plus, the elements can affect behavior in a subconscious way, Lee said. In a world where hand-washing and other hygiene gets more prioritized, it’s easy to see such hygiene elements becoming part of the landscape.

“It was a great exercise to think about how we would do things differently,” Danz said.

Now that the concepts are out, they’re available to be adapted to specific needs in business and retail areas. Going forward, 17 business districts in Baltimore will implement design concepts that are responsive to particular business and neighborhood environments this summer. Baltimore-based design teams will work with the district leaders to scope, develop, and implement the concepts, with BDC funding stipends and construction.

Here’s a full list of the teams with concepts in the guidebook:

  • “Curblet Commons” — Graham Projects (Graham Coreil-Allen)
  • “Parklet Design Idea” — EDSA (Craig Stoner, Terri Wu)
  • “Space Frame” — Zoe Roane-Hopkins
  • “Hygiene, Hon” — Ziger|Snead Architects (Doug Bothner, Jeremy Chinnis, Cyrus Lee, Kelly Danz)
  • “The Food Court” — Department Design Office (Maggie Tsang, Isaac Stein)
  • “Make ApART” — Quinn Evans (Ethan Marchant, Steve Schwenk)
  • “inFRONT of House” — PI.KL (Pavlina Ilieva, Kuo Pao Lian)
  • “ParKIT” — Abby Thomas, Michael McGrain, Connor Price (Ayers Saint Gross, Landscape Architecture)
  • “Micro District” — Yard & Company, &Access
  • “Find Your Tropical Island” — Christopher Odusanya
Companies: Baltimore Development Corporation
Series: Coronavirus

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