This is your local supermarket, retrofit to accommodate a pandemic.

It is set out according to a 1.5m grid to allow adequate social distancing - always. It has a trolley-wash, crowd control, and absolutely no toilet-paper.

The outbreak of the coronavirus challenged us all to re-think our spatial constraints – both physically and behaviourally. Everyday spaces such as supermarkets needed to adapt to become rapidly pandemic-proofed. Makeshift plastic barriers, stickers on the ground and humans moving cautiously through the aisles like Tetris blocks was the solution.

Suddenly, our spaces, our movements and our interactions became governed by invisible bubbles.



In this moment we face the reality of our second lockdown. While the restrictions are familiar, the resurgence of isolation brings a new tone to the crisis; a sense of ceaselessness and permanence. The Victorian community is well accustomed to social distancing practices; however, this fact fails to ease anxieties and we are left with the overwhelming feeling of helplessness.

Isobel Moy’s COVID supermarket, Safe-way, is a witty and searing reflection of the current climate. Grocery shopping is one of life’s most mundane experiences that has, like many other things in our lives, been totally upturned. The bureaucratic strangeness of the contemporary supermarket is masked by her use of pop colours and shapes that give the images a somewhat dystopian impression.

Through this project we begin to understand the implications of entirely new and unfamiliar metrics. They demand that daily practices are dramatically transformed to allow for adequate distancing. Makeshift barriers and stickers on the ground are a quick fix, but should designers start rethinking the metrics that determine our spaces?

We are left with a frightening thought; is the COVID supermarket a stop-gap for the current crisis, or a glimpse into a future where pandemic events are recurrent?

Is this really the new normal?


An independent, youth-led architecture journal from Melbourne (Naarm)

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proudly edited by:
Jack Murray, Connor Hanna, Yuchen Gao, Simone Chait, Yiling Shen, Daniel Bickle-Lazarow, Victoria Marquez,