As we start to accustom to the world after lockdown, will our cities go on a decline or an opportunity to reinvent itself for a new urban renaissance?
Restoring the old normal
The government is currently busy planning to kick start the economy, ranging from pubs opening across the country with social distancing measure, to 50% off restaurant discount to tempt punters back to the restaurants, it is a sign that we are beginning to get to grips with the new normal post Covid19.
While the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are grappling with restoring the country back to the old normal before lockdown, the world as we know it has been transformed and changes beyond recognition. One-way system in supermarkets, 2m social distancing stickers on the streets or walls of buildings, street closure and pop-up cycle lanes have changed the way how we navigate, use and experience our towns and cities.
Normal? What Normal?
Perhaps the most devastating effect of Covid19 is how it changes our relationship with the office, how we work and more importantly our relationship with the city. There will be no going back to normal until a vaccine has been found or the virus dies out from natural causes, the days of people cramping into an elevator to get into a packed office building is long gone. There are several stories, ranging from medium business to large corporates such as Apple, Twitter and Google, all advising their staff to work from home in the near future.
What does this mean for our cities? With big businesses re-evaluating their presences in major cities, with many anticipate a reduction on occupying floor space, this will have an impact on the economy of our cities.
Pessimists will see this as the beginning of the end for cities, its economic draw will wean, and the rise of suburbia will be on the horizon. I do not think that will be the case, cities have always evolved and adapted to make itself relevant. It will change its form, function and may be beyond our recognition after numerous iterations. Instead of being a bystander, shouldn’t we, as a profession of placemaker start to advocate, speculate what a good city post-Covid19 should look like?
Establishing a new normal?
Instead of a majority of people constantly travelling in and out of towns and cities, we can perhaps have a more balanced landuse around our cities, where urban living is affordable for the majority of people? Big corporate companies will still have a presence in major cities, but they are used for meetings or for workers who are not working from home?
Should the working from home culture is more mainstream, the design of our homes will need to be looked at, it is simply not acceptable to use our dining table to be this multi-purpose space that can be our office/virtual meeting room/children space for work and play. What is the future of this new type of hybrid working which may not be as ideal as we think, the design of our homes and what will it looks like?
…set out a vision of sustainable regeneration of our towns and cities through making them compact, multi-centred, live/work, socially mixed, well designed and connected, and environmentally sustainable. It put on the agenda the need to upgrade the existing urban fabric, and to use the derelict and brownfield sites in our cities before encroaching on the countryside. – Richard Rogers
Towards an Urban Renaissance – again?
My scribble diagram speculating a new normal of our future towns and cities, it suddenly dawns onto me that it is not far from how The Urban Task Force has envisaged at the turn of the century, maybe the report is slightly ahead of its time and Covid19 is giving us the time and opportunity to deliver the urban renaissance that we aspired for last time around, what do you think?