Part of the Frame Lab section that defines the overarching theme for each of our print magazines, The Challenge asks up-and-coming designers to devise concepts that address pertinent issues in design. As our upcoming July/August 2020 issue – Frame 135 – is focused on post-pandemic spaces, we briefed three teams to come up with ways of adapting to the new normal and 1.5-m society.

Below, we share a concept created by the Amsterdam-based practice Studio Modijefsky especially for Frame. The studio’s idea, #fillingthegap, aims to occupy the intermediate areas that arose from the 1.5-m distancing rules. The team suggests allowing the cultural sector, hit hard by forced closures, to curate the areas with temporary exhibitions accessible for all.

You are worried about COVID-19’s impact on the cultural landscape...

ESTHER STAM: Yes. Right at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, cultural institutions were the first places deemed ‘unessential’ and gov­ernments across the world ordered them to close their doors. Meanwhile, the fundamental need for art persevered, which became evident by people watching films, listening to music and visiting muse­ums online from the safety of their homes.

Following a long period of financial loss, cultural institutions are now slowly preparing to reopen their doors. But this raises questions. How will the 1.5-m ‘gap’ caused by social distancing impact and alter the design and capacity of public cultural spaces? How many people will be able to enjoy a concert, an opera or an exhibition at the same time? How will the decrease in visitor numbers affect the ticket prices and will culture remain afforda­ble for everybody, rather than only available for the affluent?

Following the shutdown of museums and the like, you called on the creativity of your social media community.

That’s right. We started an Instagram challenge using the hashtag #fillingthegap. We asked our followers to fill the 1.5-m gap with everyday objects sourced from their home. It resulted in all kinds of creative mini exhibitions that highlighted the required distance between people.

Founded by Esther Stam in 2009, Studio Modijefsky is a women-run interior architecture studio in Amsterdam and mainly working within the hospitality and retail industries.

What could such installations mean beyond your followers’ front doors?

We believe installations of such measurements can help create clear visual pathways in the urban tissue. We envision a variety of interventions. The safest distance between people can be marked on the ground with the use of colour, light, water or a change of texture. In addition, intermediate areas can be filled with extruded and sunken shapes, or filled with interactive objects equipped with speakers, screens, projectors or nozzles spraying mist.

How will your concept help the cultural sector?

All these ‘intermediate elements’ will be used to host micro-exhibitions, concerts and the like, which will be curated by large cultural institutions, small galleries and individual performers. We bring art into urban environments and offer a space where everyone can enjoy a complete art experience without the need to purchase a ticket or enter a crowded building, which we believe is relevant post-pandemic, too. We aim to make culture accessible for everyone – at a safe distance. We are filling the gap.

Stay tuned for our next issue, Frame 135, out from 1 July. In the meantime, read more of our coverage on COVID-19's impact on the design industry here.