Verandert corona hoe onze steden in de toekomst ontworpen zullen worden?
De corona-pandemie heeft enkele fundamentele tekortkomingen blootgelegd in de manier waarop onze steden ontworpen zijn. Zal het de manier waarop ze in de toekomst zijn ontworpen veranderen? We delen graag dit interessante artikel met u:
Will COVID-19 change how our cities are designed in the future?
Major cities around the world have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like it has been throughout history. The Black Death ravaged every major European city in the Middle Ages. This time too, the virus originated in Wuhan, the most populous city in Central China, before spreading to other major cities around the world. If New York has so far been the grimmest example of a COVID-19 hotspot, the scene has only been a shade better for London, Madrid, New Delhi, Mumbai, Sao Paulo or Moscow. Urban areas have been most affected because of a combination of factors such as city size, population, connectivity to other major cities whether nationally or internationally, health infrastructure, and most importantly, the sizeable number of the urban poor.
As authorities and businesses work on reopening – how and when to return to offices, factories, schools, universities, malls and restaurants — the dialogue has shifted from isolation to distancing. In the absence of a vaccine, the minimum two-meter physical distancing that health experts say is crucial to contain the virus will be upon us for some time to come. This is already having an effect on how cities function. There are very few takers for public transit, a crucial element of any large city. Work from home measures mean fall in takers for office space in highrises. As retail and hospitality industries struggle to keep business afloat, there is a big question mark around entertainment and sports, and when these sectors will fully open.
Opportunity for urban planners
The current chaos has exposed some of the fundamental flaws in the way our cities were planned and designed, or, in some cases, not planned and designed at all. It has also exposed the vulnerabilities in our public health systems, quality of governance and growing inequalities, bursting the bubble around some of the concepts of smart cities.
Is there an opportunity here for urban planners to plan for the future? Right now, the imperative is to contain the spread of the virus, provide immediate healthcare, and reopen the economy to start production. Towards that, the immediate shifts could be felt in rising remote work culture, digitalization of retail and move to a cashless economy. In the long run, there could be an acceleration towards contactless smart infrastructure, driverless cars and total automation of assembly lines.
This is also an opportunity for city planners to focus on green initiatives, upgrade their zoning and procurement policies to promote smart density and greener investment. There is evidence that air quality improved in cities around the world as economic activity reduced during the lockdown period. Milan was among the first cities to introduce one of the most ambitious plans in Europe by reallocating street space from cars to cyclists and walkers as part of its COVID response strategy. This was quickly followed by many – from London to Paris, New York to Mexico City – while first movers such as Amsterdam and Melbourne chose to completely revamp their economies by adopting a circular economy.
In all these cases, sustainability was the underlining message.
Even before COVID-19 struck, 10,000+plus cities had made commitments to reduce their carbon emissions drastically by 2050. According to a report released last year, use of existing technologies and policies could help the cities cut their carbon emissions by 90% by 2050.
Will the pandemic accelerate the shift towards that direction? The priority now is to save lives and deliver essential services. But the lessons learnt from this crisis should be used to make our cities more resilient, more sustainable and smarter in their use of technology. This will help us not only manage the current crisis better but also prepare for future pandemics and other disasters, and make our cities shock-proof.