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Urban design post-pandemic

Happy new year to all readers of this blog! I hope to make more frequent posts this year if workload/time permits.


It is a worthwhile time to think about the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the future of our cities and urban design.



An interesting resource on this topic can be found via this interview between Andres Duany and James Howard Kunstler, author of the Geography of Nowhere (highly recommended read).


Duany argues that it is essential to focus on the difference between mitigation and adaptation. This is not a blog about epidemiology, although it would be fair to say at this point, that mitigation has not been successful in relation to the pandemic and therefore we must focus greater efforts on adaptation.


We can learn from urban design changes that took place after the 1918 influenza pandemic. Some of these trends include:


- There were profound changes to society and things did not continue as normal.

- People placed a premium on sunlight and fresh air in urban areas as this was seen as a mitigation strategy against acquiring disease. Growth was therefore concentrated in areas with better sunlight eg. California/Florida in the US, Spain/Italy/Morocco in Europe.

- Shared internal areas of buildings were not seen as desirable and there was a move to single family homes.


What are some things we can therefore think about in future urban design post-pandemic:


- We are blessed with relatively good weather in Australia, providing good opportunity for greater access to sunlight and fresh air. It might be considered that warmer parts of the country are better able to adapt than colder areas eg. we might expect growth to accelerate in northern NSW over southern parts of the state.

- Greater opportunity for sunlight and cross-ventilation in buildings. Many modern commercial buildings are being built with little natural ventilation at all. Consider better natural ventilation and sunlight to the common areas of apartments. There may be a trend towards single family housing over large communal buildings, although we can think about the design of apartments eg. a 1920s walk-up flat building often has a common roof area and very good ventilation via windows.

- Greater consideration of open-air dining over areas solely located within buildings. The City of Sydney has taken a lead in this regard.

- There may be greater demand for open-air public recreation areas over activity taking place within buildings.

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