The Impact of COVID-19 on Public Space: An Early Review of the Emerging Questions – Design, Perceptions and Inequities

Eleni Spiliotes
Tuesday 3 January 2023

Jordi Honey-Rosés et al., Cities & Health 5, sup1, (2021): S263-S279.

Written at the beginning of the pandemic, this article presents a framework of questions to guide future research on how Covid-19 has impacted the perception, use and design of public space. The authors hypothesize that a paradigm shift could be underway, due to the sudden and intense rupturing of pre-pandemic life. The contemporary typologies of public space originated with the Haussmannization of Paris, and so it is the desire to see and be seen that has informed public space design for over a century. However, the authors argue that it is these two desires that have been fundamentally altered by the pandemic, and therefore the future forms of public space are unknown. The article poses questions about the socioeconomic implications of post-pandemic public space as the protective measures implemented in response to Covid-19 have generated a reordering of urban space, like the shift to a teleworking model, and the restricted operations of the informal street economy and public transit, that causes spatial injustice. Thus, the article suggests that post-pandemic visions of the peaceful city must not default to standard urban forms as they are now incompatible with urban life. Rather, public space design should be used as an opportunity to innovate new architectural interventions that address issues around access, inclusion, and wellbeing, which were exacerbated by the pandemic.


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