Planning in Unusual Times

urban planning COVID-19 blogBy L. Dennis Burns, CAPP

I recently read an article by Sam Lubell about COVID-19’s effects on cities, in the Los Angeles Times.

In his article, Lubell outlines how “although pandemics have long been a tragic scourge on our cities, they’ve also forced architecture and city planning to evolve. The Bubonic Plague, which wiped out at least a third of Europe’s population in the 14th century, helped to inspire the radical urban improvements of the Renaissance. Cities cleared squalid and cramped living quarters, expanded their borders, developed early quarantine facilities, opened larger and less cluttered public spaces and deployed professionals with specialized expertise, from surveyors to architects.”

“In the 20th century, tuberculosis, typhoid, polio and Spanish flu breakouts prompted urban planning, slum clearance, tenement reform, waste management and, on a larger level, Modernism itself, with its airy spaces, single-use zoning (separating residential and industrial areas, for instance), cleaner surfaces (think glass and steel) and emphasis on sterility.”

Lubell concludes that, “It’s clear that the coronavirus will have — and is already having— a similarly profound effect on today’s built world. It’s shaking loose notions of what is “normal” in a field still employing many of the same techniques it did a century ago. And it’s pushing forward promising but still emerging practices, from prefabrication to telecommuting.”

I encourage you to read Lubell’s article in which he examines six methodologies related urban design and the built environment that are playing a prominent role in the age of COVID-19:

  • Modular construction.
  • Adaptive reuse.
  • Lightweight architecture.
  • The healthy building.
  • Telecommuting and small city living.
  • The town square, reconsidered.
  • Building beyond COVID.

According to Lubell, if history is a guide, the rise of these temporary methodologies likely will become permanent, at least in some form.

 

L. Dennis Burns, CAPP, is regional vice president and senior practice builder with Kimley-Horn.