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Architect Leonardo Dias shares how he turned his competition entry into reality

Leonardo Dias provides some simple tips for creating local and impactful Covid-19 memorials

From Leonardo Dias.

At the start of the pandemic everyone was terrified and ran to drug stores to buy hand sanitizer. Prices were going crazy and I realized that very few people would be able to get their hands on basic items like soap. It was a real problem that could be solved with access to water and soap, however, we don't have it in public spaces and it's even worse in poor communities where water is scarce. At the same time I saw the Coronavirus Design competition from DesignClass and I decided to create a design proposal.  

My first idea was to create a piece of equipment that would allow people to wash their hands in public spaces. However, as the pandemic situation got worse, with huge numbers of victims every day and people not knowing how to use masks, social distance, or sift through fake news, I saw that this equipment had to be more than that. That's why I added four panels to the equipment so information about the virus and tactics to stay safe could be displayed to everyone. At the same time this panel could show photos or graphics related to victims of Covid-19. I could create a memorial that would honor those who had lost their lives and people could see that all those daily numbers of victims were real people, people with parents and friends.  

Want to pitch your memorial proposal to your local city?
Here are some things I learned.

One of the things you can do to succeed in your proposal is to combine more than one function in your design. So instead of having only one feature, combine different solutions into your memorial. What things can your memorial do beyond preserve memory? Can it give a glimpse into the future as well? Can it help locals to stay well informed or safe? There are many possibilities. 

I recommend that you research memorial precedents. This type of architecture has been in our history for a long time. Try to find some examples in your city or country, it could be a huge space dedicated to some kind of event or a single monument. The idea is to know what has been done and with that in mind, come up with ideas that reflect what we are living through right now. 

Keep in mind some of the big topics that COVID-19 pandemic has brought to our society, such as: funerals without family presence, isolation from people we love, homeless and poverty conditions, digital connections, importance of our home, education from distance and hygiene are some examples.

Bringing your design to life

  1. Research local initiatives related to COVID-19 victims in your city. Contact national and local nets of support and see if it's possible to collaborate with them in order to design your memorial; Real contact with victim's families is important and maybe they will help to bring your design alive.
  2. Try to find any oficial initiatives of your city hall or government related to COVID-19 and see if it's possible to get funds for your design or if there's any demand of such a memorial in their agenda.
  3. Bring your ideas to your school. Ask opinions of your professors and share that with the university community. They can also help to connect you with other people and promote your design.

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