How Can Cities Tackle the COVID-19 Pandemic? (Part 1)

Part of the summary map for the Amara Berri Public Space Activation and Improvement Plan. Source: Paisaje Transversal

The coronavirus health crisis has exposed the inefficiency of our cities in dealing with the turmoil that’s increasingly going to unsettle our world-system. The COVID-19 pandemic is simply the inevitable tip of an iceberg called climate crisis. Fortunately, the exceptional situation now being experienced in our metropolises also represents a great opportunity to set in motion a change of model that will set us on the road to real urban sustainability. For that to happen, though, city corporations should start taking decisive action as soon as possible.

In this article we present the first instalment of a series of urban strategies that could be applied to help cities handle the COVID-19 pandemic. It should be noted that the proposals included here have been vindicated by numerous environmentalists and urban planning professionals for decades. Perhaps this is the key historic moment when they can finally be put into practice.

  • Integral planning and resilience: A city without a plan is a city without direction. And not having a route plan in a storm like this one (and like those to come in the future) may be a recipe for unprecedented disaster. In contrast, it’s those cities which have opted for integral urban planning and resilience that are now showing the best capacity to address the crisis.
  • Combating inequality: The latest data reveals that the pandemic is having its biggest impact among the more vulnerable populations and neighbourhoods. Determined commitment is therefore needed to bring about the integral, participatory urban regeneration of these environments, since this is the best tool urban planners have with which to fight against urban vulnerability.
  • Rehabilitating the housing stock: Lockdown has made us aware of the deficiencies in our housing. So this could be the perfect stimulus to launch an ambitious rehabilitation programme that goes beyond energy-related issues and incorporates vectors like natural lighting, the redefining of communal spaces and – why not! – the right to a balcony.
  • The danger lies not in density but in overcrowding: Recent studies have shown how density is not a decisive factor in the propagation of coronavirus. In fact, low density suburban zones aren’t free from danger The risk lies not in density but in overcrowding and its associated vulnerabilities.
  • Strengthening public services: One of the clearest lessons to be learned from the health crisis must be the need to have quality, well equipped, better run public services. And for that we require urban planning capable of creating a strong network of public facilities, spread out over the land to efficiently cover the population’s social and health needs.

So there you have the first five specific ideas that cities could start to work on to better adapt to the new urban scenario brought about by coronavirus. We’ll look at the other measures in this series of proposals for post-COVID-19 urban planning in the next article (Part 2).

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Paisaje Transversal es una oficina de Planificación Urbana Integral que ofrece asesoría y consultoría en la transformación de las ciudades y los territorios desde una perspectiva innovadora, integral y participativa. Desde el inicio de nuestra andadura profesional a finales de 2011 hemos desarrollado más de 100 proyectos repartidos entre España, Europa y Latinoamérica.

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