Films have already given us the answers to how to shelter from viruses, and the zombies they regularly create, and maybe it’s time to heed those lessons.
January 29th, 2020
Rejoice, Australia, because finally we can stop devoting all our fears of national annihilation to the hellish record-breaking bushfire season and the accompanying palls of death-smoke wafting over our cities.
That’s not because they’ve stopped, to be clear – they have not, and our hottest, driest month is still ahead of us. It’s also not because the smoke has gotten more healthy: turns out that three days of it increases the risk of heart attack so science better brace itself for whatever four solid months does to everyone in the Sydney Basin.
No, it’s because we have a new threat: the coronavirus that threatens to kill us all.
First recorded in Wuhan, China, warnings about the likelihood of international distribution were followed about 20 minutes later by confirmation that yep, it had totally already spread internationally including a stop off in Australia. And while research teams around the world are working on coming up with a treatment, a vaccine or a way of negotiating directly with the virus’ representatives, no-one seems to have much of a plan for how to stop it as yet.
In fact, since it looks like not everyone who carries the virus shows obvious symptoms there’s a decent chance that there’s no quick and easy way to screen for it and the world’s governments will need to put aside their differences and share information and resources in the face of a shared global medical threat. You know, like we all did with climate change.
But in the meantime, ahead of presidential tweets about how the virus is all fake news by the Chinese or prime ministerial edicts claiming we won’t be distracted by the “Wuhan Bubble”, you might be wondering how best to create virus free living spaces. And fortunately, our true leaders – Hollywood and its bastard child television – have come up with plenty of solutions for us.
And sure, there are actual things you can do to make your home less susceptible to germs – wash your bedding and towels regularly, keep your toothbrush in a cabinet so you don’t get what’s charmingly known as “fecal flume” from the adjacent toilet, wipe down your phone and TV remote – but those are boring and not nearly as cool as retrofitting your building in some DIY-sci-fi way.
So what options do we have?
It’s important to point out that so far there is no indication that coronavirus reanimates its victims as flesh eating monsters filled with an insatiable hunger to feed on the living, but when looking to pop culture for clues on how to deal with viral pandemics it’s all but assumed that “infection” means “zombie” and hey, we need to take what we can get.
On the face of it a massive wall would probably do the trick too, since people with flu-like symptoms are probably not going to dramatically swarm against it to form a writhing ladder of furiously grasping bodies, but it’s unlikely to get council approval, even if you have particularly laid-back neighbours.
At this point the virus seems restricted to the surface-world, so maybe the answer is to burrow into the welcoming subterranean spaces beneath us? That’s where humanity were sheltering in both the Terry Gilliam film and the Netflix spinoff series, because viruses apparently can’t… go downwards? That seems unlikely.
Anyway yes, this poses numerous design challenges for popular architectural elements like natural light and all but the most basic of entertaining spaces. But if you do happen to also have time travel at your fingertips and are thinking about sending someone back to get a copy of the virus, maybe have them mention the whole global warming thing to some people too.
If you’re successful in getting urgent action then it’d set up some problematic paradoxes, sure, but right now how could that hurt?
Nothing gets a spirited conversation going with people in your community like sealing your house in a massive plastic bubble accessible only by a long transparent tube and constantly wearing a hazmat suit. The use of intriguing conversational phrases like “this is simply a precaution, no cause for alarm”, “please move to a safe distance, citizen” and “deploy the Omega Protocol” should also help build local buzz in the neighbourhood.
Maintaining positive pressure to keep the bubble constantly inflated should ensure that any viruses that enter your house are whisked straight back outside, and should also improve your dwelling’s buoyancy which is very handy for anyone in a coastal region thinking those king tides are getting a bit more frequent and terrifying.
On the minus side, the constant whirring of motorised fans may become irritating after a while, and it’s not going to take those carnies long to work out who pinched the engines from their bouncy castles.
But these are all just suggestions: surely today’s architectural minds have ideas (steam mist windows? Micofibre screens? Floors that exude germ-trapping bubbles?). Get on it, team: we might need them sooner rather than later.
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