Luxury Resorts, Tiny Homes, RVs: How Architecture is Adapting in the Age of Coronavirus

Asilomar, a seaside resort with buildings by famous architect Julia Morgan, is being used as a quarantine site. So is an EconoLodge outside of Seattle. Shopping malls might be next.

One evening in early March, a white van pulled into the parking lot of an EconoLodge motel in the city of Kent, Washington, just south of Seattle. A worker extended a long roller and began painting the motel’s sign black. No longer a motel, the building was beginning a new life as a quarantine facility for people who’ve been exposed to the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.

The 84-room motel, which had been on the market for about a month, was purchased for $4 million a few days before. King County officials had bought it to help deal with what had become the country’s highest concentration of COVID-19 cases. A statement from the office of King County Executive Dow Constantine said the motel was “the only site on the market” that met the physical requirements to safely contain the disease. All of its rooms have easily cleaned hard-surface floors, can be accessed individually without entering an enclosed hallway, and are equipped with their own HVAC equipment that doesn’t share airflow with other rooms. To keep infected people separated and treatable without occupying valuable hospital space, the motel offered a quick solution.

King County is far from alone in needing to adapt spaces to respond to the challenges presented by this coronavirus. In other hotspots across the country – from California to New York – patients and people who’ve been exposed are being treated in military bases and other state-owned facilities, but this could soon expand. Mike Cook, a partner at the Innova Group, a healthcare planning consultancy, says hotels, motels, and vacant school dormitories are good candidate spaces. “Private rooms with toilets are priorities number one and number two,” he says. Spaces also need easily cleanable surfaces, ventilation that won’t spread contagious aerosols, and, for psychosocial purposes, television or internet access to keep people entertained or occupied. “If you’re going to put a person in a room for two weeks, it’s more than just monitoring their health,” Cook says. ...