The rise of blocked-off design

Plexiglass bubbles hover over diners’ heads in restaurants. Plastic pods, spaced six feet apart, separate weightlifters in gyms. Partitions of all kinds are creeping up in workplaces. As offices, restaurants, bars and businesses reopened after months of lockdowns and closures, a new phenomenon emerged, one that I’ve come to think of as ‘blocked-off design’. It’s design and layout that aims to construct and enforce distancing in a somewhat makeshift way. It’s characterised by partitions, sheer walls, six-foot markers. As a visual language, it’s defined by barriers and blockage — physical reminders that spaces where we once went to mingle with others are now fraught, and that even in public, isolation