The Covid-19 pandemic has radically changed the way we interact. Not only do we partly cover our faces with masks, we are careful to keep our distance from others while lining up at the supermarket cashier, at the railway station, in a waiting room or just taking a walk in a public place. We are assisted in this by a series of static symbols on the floor (stickers, stencils, signposts, and so on) suggesting where we ought to walk or stand and reminding us to keep our distance from the people ahead of and behind us. But this system is not always effective, as it fails to take into account a number of variables and the fact that symbols are not always easily understood.
Observation of such behaviour gave rise to a simple question in the mind of architect Cosimo Scotucci: "All the physical distancing markers proposed so far are based on static solutions: could we come up with a dynamic one?" His search for a possible solution took the form of the Physx project, which the Italian architect presented in an installation designed for the space in front of Rotterdam central station.
After earning his master’s degree at the School of Architecture in Rome and working for various architectural practices in Italy, France and the Netherlands, Cosimo Scotucci chose Rotterdam as the city in which to pursue his career and establish his own studio. His projects are inspired by the desire to contribute to a more sustainable society with smart solutions for reducing consumption of materials and energy and promoting a sustainable lifestyle. The same spirit inspires his recent Physx project offering a simple, concrete solution for safely using public spaces and outdoor areas in today’s pandemic. Physx is an elastic fibre raised about 50 cm above the ground; when someone steps on it, the membrane absorbs the pressure and generates a coloured area one and a half metres wide which varies in intensity. The coloured area moves with the person, so that the distance to be maintained while interacting with others is always visible; if two people come too close together, their personal zones overlap, making it immediately clear that they are not a far enough distance apart. The device also indicates different degrees of danger, expressed in the colour of the fibres.
Cosimo Scotucci drew his inspiration from astrophysics in the making of Physx: “The membrane behaves like Einstein’s space-time. It folds, dilates and contracts on the basis of the pressure applied by a mass and the gravity it generates”.
“Inventing the membrane was the hardest part,” reports the architect. Physx needs no energy supply, can be installed indoors or outdoors, and works independently of temperature, in any weather conditions. The system is still in the design phase, and Cosimo Scotucci wants to produce it without copyright protection to allow it to be widely used to help contain the virus.
Images courtesy of Cosimo Scotucci
Credits and Data
Project Name: Physx
Location: Rotterdam, NL
Principal Architect: Cosimo Scotucci
Project Area: 700 m2
Images by: Cosimo Scotucci