Container ships could be converted into giant hospitals that could sail to cities most impacted by coronavirus, under a proposal by UK architecture studio Weston Williamson + Partners.
The studio came up with the proposal as it believes that coronavirus Covid-19 will have a serious impact on countries that lack access to healthcare.
"It looks likely that Europe and USA will be decimated by Covid-19 but I really fear it will be a catastrophe across Africa, in India and other countries, and in refugee camps where social distancing is a luxury and access to running water and hygiene is more difficult," explained Chris Williamson, co-founder of Weston Williamson + Partners.
The studio believes that container ships could be a solution as they can sail directly to areas worst hit by the pandemic. Many large container ships are currently out of service due to the slowdown in global trade.
The hospital ships would serve as an alternative to the field hospitals currently being built in conference centres, including the Excel in London, and parks in North American and European cities.
"We are fortunate in the UK and the USA to have parks and open spaces in our cities planned for well being and health reasons by enlightened visionaries," Williamson told Dezeen.
"I'm sure Frederik Olmstead did not envisage his exemplary 1857 design for New York's Central Park would be a huge field hospital, but he did provide it for rest and recreation, health and well-being for a rapidly growing population," he continued.
"Developing countries do not have an Excel exhibition centre to convert to a hospital. But the world at present has hundreds of container ships with thousands of containers, which can be quickly repurposed. We all need to help to avoid a catastrophe."
The hospital wards, which were designed with advice from engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald, would be made of shipping containers stacked six high. Access would be via circulation decks served by goods lifts spaced at 20-unit intervals.
"The height of six is a manageable number in case patients need to be moved around, and any higher, which is possible, would lead to too dense canyon-like blocks," said Williamson. "It's important that there is a sense of well being with good light and airflow."
Each of the container-based intensive care units would be powered by the ship's power supply combined with back-up generators placed within each block of 20 units.
"The great thing about containers is that they are almost the perfect size for a single intensive care bed and it gives privacy, comfort, daylight and ventilation," continued Williamson.
Weston Williamson has contacted shipping companies, the RIBA and humanitarian organisations to get the project up and running.
The hospital ships could be operational soon with "political will and the agreement of the shipping companies," said Williamson.
"Maesk, CMA CGM and Hapag Lloyd are the three firms that we are speaking to who have shown interest," he added.
Weston Williamson is an architecture studio with offices in London, Toronto, Melbourne and Sydney. The studio has previous built a modular student housing block in Lewisham, London, and proposed a housing block that can be expanded by its residents in Palestine.
Its hospital ship proposal follows a concept designed by Italian architects Carlo Ratti and Italo Rota for an intensive-care pod within a shipping container. The first of these units is under construction at a hospital in Milan.