Just Imagine…

a reflection on the potential of urban innovation following a post-pandemic eraby Alli Di Giovanni


Imagine…

It’s 2030 and you hop on the West Coast Express in the early morning to head to your office job in Vancouver’s downtown core. As you arrive at the station and look out to the water you see local families clamming in the newly re-claimed intertidal area, while fishers pull in nets of healthy and flourishing catches of which they can sell and provide for their families.

You head to your rearranged office – no longer do you hear Carol’s music blaring from the cubical next to yours, as wide-open spaces now dampen these sounds while providing opportunity for outside light to illuminate your workspace – adding just a hint more productivity to your day.

Prior to heading home, you take a leisurely stroll down previously vehicle designated roadway’s where patios have now spilled onto the streets, entrepreneurial buskers make a go at stardom, and pieces of nature are allowed to weep from the edges of the road, filling gaps of grey with greenness.

Figure 1: An example of the open space that can be created for pedestrians and cyclists resulting from the banishment of vehicles from the city of Pontevedra, Spain (Burgen, 2020). This image is meant to provide an illustration of the future that the City of Vancouver could create for their residents and visitors with similar innovative policies and plans.

Today you’re wandering down Waterfront Street into the Gastown Walking Hub where you’re planning to pick up some fresh grown-in-house produce from the Lot 31 Supermarket. Walking through the large bay doors you see urban farming interns tending to crops through, what was, the spiral lanes of the old parkade. Heading left into the market area, you go to pick out your seasonal produce for tonight’s dinner – specifically, you’re looking for that smell of homegrown tomatoes that you can’t quite get anywhere else. As you go to pay you realize you forgot the reusable bag by your front door, so one is rented to you with the subtle agreement it will be returned upon your visit later that week.

Running to the train, you look back at the street pondering the reality you’d be living if there had been no pandemic – no mass food insecurities or awareness of the vulnerabilities of those living closest to you, a lack of appreciation of open green spaces and a rather inept view of your own resilience towards such crises.

If there had been no pandemic you ask yourself if you would appreciate locally grown foods along with the security and jobs that go with it? If you would have appreciated the openness of streets and the ability to experience culture, socialization, and that warm feeling of belonging to the city? If over-consumerism and personal vehicle use was allowed to run rampant, would you see any harvests from our waters or be able to have plentiful space for walking and cycling?

You scan your transit pass and wait on the platform – grateful for the innovators, designers, planners, and entrepreneurs who could see a new future for a post-pandemic era.

Figure 2: The Starwood 2340 Collins Office Building, Miami – a picturesque representation of the direction of future architectural design for office spaces and urban life (Goldstein, 2020).

Comparable to a living organism, or better yet an inter-dependent set of urban ecosystems, the city is a complex system that requires adaptive methodologies that looks at the outcome of all its variables in sum (Irene, 2008). Living through the pandemic we are further enlightened on how a “living city evolves within [larger] context[‘s]” – notably we see the city forced to adapt due to this unexpected shockwave for which our current decisions, actions and plans must look ahead at recovery that incorporates sustainability of a more just society (Irene, 2008, pg. 279).

Considering the asphalt laden – vehicle designed – transport network found in many North American cities (with Vancouver being no exception) we find our communities devoid of culture, diversity, and thus resiliency. Moreover, this lack of resilience and inequitable distribution of impacts amongst communities’ highlights vulnerabilities of which have only been exacerbated due to the pandemic.

To reach a more sustainable just urban city, we must focus on our present existing resources and how these can be upscaled and intertwined with others to meet our lofty future goals.

Figure 3: An all too familiar cityscape illustrating the urban design focus on personal vehicular transport (Pexels, n.d.)

Within the Vancouver 2040 Transportation Plan – the city will be implementing a form of transport pricing by 2025 to evolve 60%+ of trips towards active or public transport methods (City of Vancouver, 2012). This will in fact, have a significant impact on vehicle produced gas emissions and thus air quality – a factor which currently plays a role in the transmission and recovery of COVID 19 (Sharifi & Khavarian-Garmsir, 2020). Moreover, by removing vehicles from the road, space is freed-up to provide areas for play, leisure, socialization and physical activity – leading to a greater sense of community, and presently impacting one’s adherence to public health COVID 19 guidelines (Sharifi & Khavarian-Garmsir, 2020).

One such innovation stemming from decreased vehicle use may take place in the form of unused parking garages, for example Easy Park Lot 31 along Waterfront in the Gastown area. Such a space could be re-designed into an Urban Farming initiative (Szopinska-Mularz & Lehmann, 2019) – as imagined in our 2030 future – of which may provide resilience to food insecurities, a vulnerability that has risen by 74% in comparison to 2018 in Canada as a result of the pandemic (Ryan, 2020). Furthermore, it would diversify and decrease the dependency of the city on imported food goods (Pablo, 2020).

As a set of urbanized ecosystems – or as a living entity – we can explore how cities increase their resilience to crises by exploring the connectivity of transport systems and its implications to food security, sense of community and the feeling of belonging, with hope of creating a just sustainable society for all. 

Presently, we await such a vibrant, lively and resilient future – with one waiting to be created through implementation of systems thinking and acknowledgement of the vast connectivity within the city, achievable by thinking beyond our current reality and reaching for potential innovations that are yet to be explored.

Figure 4: A conceptual rendering of a circular parking garage turned into an urban farm and market place (Deschuytter, 2018).

References:

Burgen, S. (2020, February 3). “For me, this is paradise”: life in the Spanish city that banned cars. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/sep/18/paradise-life-spanish-city-banned-cars-pontevedra

City of Vancouver. (2012). Transportation 2040. https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/Transportation_2040_Plan_as_adopted_by_Council.pdf

Deschuytter, F. (2018). The Post Parking Era. Future Architecture. https://futurearchitectureplatform.org/projects/4d571c7e-2a08-49e9-9d47-1eb5db2db4b3/

Goldstein, J. (2020, May 4). An Architecture of Optimism for a Post-Pandemic Society | Dialogue Blog | Research & Insight. Gensler. https://www.gensler.com/research-insight/blog/an-architecture-of-optimism-for-a-post-pandemic-society

Pablo, C. (2020, June 8). Metro Vancouver produces 14 percent of its food supply, consumes 53 percent of B.C. stock. The Georgia Straight. https://www.straight.com/food/metro-vancouver-produces-14-percent-of-its-food-supply-consumes-53-percent-of-bc-stock

Pexels. (n.d.) Stock Photo Inventory. Retreived from https://www.pexels.com/photo/photography-of-roadway-during-dusk-1034662/

Ryan, D. (2020, November 1). More families struggling with hunger during pandemic. Vancouver Sun. https://vancouversun.com/health/school-food-programs-struggling-to-survive-the-pandemic

Sharifi, A., & Khavarian-Garmsir, A. R. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic: Impacts on cities and major lessons for urban planning, design, and management. Science of The Total Environment, 749, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142391

Szopinska-Mularz, M., & Lehmann, S. (2019). Urban Farming in Inner-city Multi-storey Car-parking Structures- Adaptive Reuse Potential. Future Cities and Environment, 5(1), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.5334/fce.50

West Coast Express delayed due to “police incident.” (2019, August 13). British Columbia. https://bc.ctvnews.ca/mobile/west-coast-express-delayed-due-to-police-incident-1.4546939?cache=yes?clipId=89750


Uniting in SFU’s UniverCity

As a university student living in SFU’s UniverCity during COVID-19, I am extremely privileged. Not only do I have access to a safe home, feel financially secure, and have a strong support system, but I am also able to use UniverCity’s public spaces which helped maintain my physical and mental health. Beyond the immediate effects of the virus, the pandemic has largely impacted the wellbeing of people around the world and to overcome its adverse effects, people are looking to city planning.

Located on Burnaby Mountain, UniverCity planning commenced in 1996 when the City of Burnaby agreed to allow Simon Fraser University (SFU) to develop 65 hectares on Burnaby Mountain in exchange for making 320 hectares of Burnaby mountain a conservation area.

Figure 1. Aerial Images of SFU Burnaby Campus. From SAC 2013, 2013. 

Close to 40% of UniverCity residents are connected to SFU either as staff, faculty or student and upon its completion, will be home to 10,000 people.

UniverCity-Neighbourhoods-MapFeb-2016.jpg
Figure 2. SFU Official Community Plan. From UniverCity.ca. Date Unknown.

The UniverCity planning organization, the Community Trust, identified a gap in the SFU community and created opportunities for affordable housing, public transportation, public spaces, and created access to other necessary services like a daycare, an elementary school, a grocery store, personal services, and restaurants. The University also provides recreational facilities and access to the library.

Figure 3. Apartment for Rent at The Hub. From RentWithAdvent.com, Date Unknown.
Figure 4. Simon Fraser University Library. From ModTraveler.net, Date Unknown.

In addition to offering these amenities, UniverCity has strong building efficiency mandates that are beyond standard building requirements. UniverCity also has a storm water system that recycles 100% of water back into the ground leaving creeks at the base of the mountain unaffected by the Community above.

“These recent trends away from sprawl development patterns and toward smart community design bode well for thoughtful and comprehensive urban design solutions.” –Michael Van Hausen

David Orr notes in his article, System Thinking and the Future of Cities, that every solution to a problem should solve many other problems while ensuring that no additional problems are created in this process. The extensive planning of UniverCity did just that by taking on a systems thinking approach and creating a flourishing community that improves life for SFU’s students, faculty and staff. UniverCity also expanded Burnaby Mountain’s conservation area and developed systems so that life on top of the mountain promotes a healthy ecosystem for the surrounding areas that are connected to SFU and the UniverCity community. This same level of planning will be key in adapting to changes onset by the pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, the community’s specific amenities that are helping people tackle its adverse effects include trails, parks, community gardens and art. Burnaby Mountain is surrounded by an extensive system of bike paths that extend into the Metro Vancouver area. These paths follow up onto the mountain and were well used in the summer months, particularly by mountain bikers and hikers.

Burnaby mountain has three community gardens: Highlands Elementary School Community Garden, SFU’s Learning Garden and the Naheena Community Garden, that is accessible to the general public. Additionally, Burnaby Park Mountain was extensively used during the pandemic. During sunset hours, the park was full of socially distanced groups of people.

Figure 7. Burnaby Mountain Park. From Pinterest, by Man, M, Date Unknown.

The UniverCity ARTwalk consists of eight pieces of art that can be found in UniverCity. These public art pieces bring interpretation, education, inspiration and aesthetic beauty and were no doubt more strongly appreciated as people had more time to spend outdoors and walk around the community.  

Although UniverCity is an award-winning community, after living there for the past year and a half, myself and my neighbours have noticed certain areas of improvement in UniverCity that should be addressed and have become more apparent during the pandemic. I have identified three proposals that consider accessibility, equity, and the local economy. These changes our outlined in the map I created below and include:

Improved accessibility to trails

The entrance and exists to trails offered on Burnaby Mountain are moderate difficulty making it difficult for seniors and children to use these trails. It’s important for seniors to have access to outdoor spaces as 50% of Canadians over the age of 80 experience feelings of loneliness. Additional entrances into trails should be created with beginner level difficulty.

Connected sidewalks

There is a lack of connected sidewalks along University Drive, on the outskirts of UniverCity. To compensate, there are paths from people continuously walking along the side of the road. However, these makeshift paths are inaccessible to people in wheelchairs and can be dangerous during slippery conditions.

Outdoor seating

Along University High Street there are many restaurants that offer take out and dine in options. To allow for social distancing, restaurants should expand or implement outdoor seating. New York City’s successful Open Restaurant Program enabled restaurants to have additional seating along sidewalks, patios, and roadways.

Figure 10. Self-Constructed Map of Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, Adapted from the City of Burnaby. December 16, 2020.

Mark Roseland, a member of the SFU Community Trust and who was involved in the planning of UniverCity, says in his book Toward Sustainable Communities, that UniverCity is part of a select number of communities that

“ … tend to push at the conventional boundaries of municipal jurisdiction, law and structure to move toward creating places of innovation, creativity, culture, health and environmental vitality.”

As we look beyond the pandemic, urban planners can use UniverCity as an exemplary model for community planning. The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design Toolkit further emphasizes the importance of empathy and understanding the people the community is being designed for and ensuring the most vulnerable are able to thrive in the community.

References:

IDEO.org. (2015). The field guide to human-centered design. https://www.designkit.org/resources/1

New York City. (n.d.). Open restaurants. Retrieved from https://www1.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/pedestrians/openrestaurants.shtml

Orr, D. (2014). Systems thinking and the future of cities. The Solutions Journal, 4(1), 54-61. https://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/article/systems-thinking-and-the-future-of-cities/?fbclid=IwAR2Pj_XGDn8loBnyBkULpJwcPPZiviIzs80WWFX__Q2eypX9dRbRMgPPVf8

Roseland, M. (2012). Toward sustainable communities: Solutions for citizens and their governments. (4th ed.). New Society Publishers.

Roy, J., Jain, R., Golamari, R., Vunnam, R., & Sahu, N. (2020). COVID-19 in the geriatric population. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.5389

UniverCity. (2002). Simon Fraser University Official Community Plan. https://univercity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Simon_Fraser_University_Official_Community_Plan.pdf

Von Hausen, M. (2013). Dynamic urban design: A handbook for creating sustainable communities worldwide. IUniverse Inc.

Inclusive ‘Third Places’ on Capitol Hill

“We have the potential to create an inclusive future. Our future lies in understanding the needs of people” – UNESCO

My Neighbourhood

I want to begin by acknowledging that I am fortunate to live in a very privileged neighbourhood where most residents are within walking distance of transit, groceries, local produce, trails, bike routes, recreational facilities, schools, doctor’s offices and other necessities.

The pandemic allowed me to view my neighbourhood from a spatial justice lens. An article on Quarantine Urbanism puts it into perspective by saying that the pandemic can be a luxury and time to reclaim personal time for some, while for others in less privileged neighbourhoods, it is a place of isolation and inequity. Having this understanding gave me an appreciation for where I live and what I have access to.

“I think (the pandemic) has shown how dependent you are on your immediate neighbourhood. Can I buy what I need with a very short trip? Can I get to services I need, or amenities like playgrounds and still stay within my neighbourhood? I think that will have a lasting impact.” – Jason Thorne, general manager of planning and economic development at the City of Hamilton

Third Places

I want to surround this post around the concept of “third place” and its importance in fostering a sustainable and inclusive community on Capitol Hill throughout the pandemic and looking forward. Third places can be defined as spaces outside of home (first place) and work (second place). They are public gathering spaces that contribute to the strength of a community. While Capitol Hill has these spaces in the form of trails and green spaces, more effort can be made to make them more sustainable and inclusive for everyone in the community.

Below is a map of Capitol Hill and its features that I created on Google Maps. It is followed by a rough sketch I drew that shows what is already present and what additions I believe are necessary to create a more sustainable and inclusive community. These additions stem from observations I made on the needs of my community during the lock down in April. While there are many things that could be addressed within my community, I chose to focus on slow streets and community gardens.

Figure 1. Map of Capitol Hill Created on Google Maps. Self-Constructed, 2020.
Figure 2. Sketch of Capitol Hill. Self- Constructed

Reflection on Capitol Hill During the Pandemic

“The biggest change since the pandemic began has come in the use of public spaces in city neighbourhoods” – Jason Thorne

While Capitol Hill did not see any direct changes in response to the pandemic, the way the community interacted with the space changed. Along the back side of the hill, there is a trail through the forest which became a sanctuary for residents to get out of their houses and take a walk. People thrived off routines at this time and I would find myself running into the same families every morning at 9 am when I would go for a run. It provided a place to meet neighbours, a place to connect; a third place.

Another greenspace that fostered connection was the famous “viewpoint”, which is located on the west side of the hill. It offers views the North Shore, Vancouver and Vancouver Island. It became a meeting spot for neighbours to get out of the house in the evenings to watch sunsets and connect from a distance.

Figure 3. Photo of Sunset at “Viewpoint”. By Bluschke, R., 2020.

What’s Missing

When I reflect on my experience throughout the pandemic, the desire for a “third place” that fosters community connection is what continues to come to mind. While Capitol Hill does have spaces to connect, there is a need for more inclusive and accessible spaces. Some gaps I have noted include:

  • The lack of sidewalks
  • The lack of spaces for child play
  • The lack of community spaces for elderly individuals

Capitol Hill is characterized by its steep and narrow streets that rewards its residents with a beautiful view at the top. This has led to the majority of the houses being built wide and tall to get the most out of their view. Unfortunately, this is at the expense of the size of the yard which ultimately impacts children and their access to play. This became evident to me when I saw my neighbour build a small pool in his front hard so his children would have a safe space to play during the pandemic. Because the yard was so small to begin with, the pool took up the entire front yard, right up to the fence.

Another observation I made through the pandemic was elderly individuals struggling through the rough terrain of the trails. They too were seeking a space to connect and experience the outdoors which was evident through their big smiles and eagerness to stop and chat when I would run by them. However, it was evident that the steep and uneven hills posed a challenge for them.

Sustainable Development Goal 11

In an online meeting report called Urban Solutions: Learning from Cities’ Responses to COVID-19, UNESCO highlights that the work done to create a more resilient and inclusive future must be guided by the Sustainable Development Goal 11 ‘Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’. Swansea, a UNESCO Learning City in the UK, has rethought its use of public spaces and has worked towards becoming more inclusive and innovative in their neighbourhoods. This has been done by repurposing public spaces to focus on social interaction and green spaces. And, with the presence of the pandemic, these measures have proven to serve as valid avenues to explore and test out further elsewhere. A main emphasis for Swansea was placing people at the center of their endeavors. Swansea’s work serves as evidence that local initiatives to repurpose existing assets and spaces helps foster community connection and inclusion in neighbourhoods.

Other examples from before and during the pandemic that I found include Edmonton’s #DYIcity that involves kickstarting short-term, safe and fun placemaking projects to liven up neighbourhoods and underused spaces. These projects include, painting garages in alleys, community gardens and chalk mandalas. Another is Wintermission, a strategy conceived by 8 80 Cities, a non-profit organization that aims to bring citizens together to enhance mobility and public spaces to create vibrant, healthy and equitable communities. Wintermission was initiated to combat social isolation and increase levels of physical activity in winter for all residents. Emphasis was put on the inclusion of all ages, abilities and socio-economic and ethnocultural backgrounds. Initiatives include creating winter walking paths and community engagement projects in public spaces in neighourhoods.

Solutions

I believe the gaps I mentioned can be addressed by using systems thinking to incorporate elements from the placemaking examples above and tailoring them to the landscape, characteristics and needs of Capitol Hill. Considering David Orr’s Systems Thinking and the Future of Cities article and Human-Centered Design, we can shift from seeing the gaps and issues as separate parts, to seeing Capitol Hill has a whole interconnected system. We can shift from seeing the children, elderly and residents as helpless actors who cannot access trails and spaces to play and see them as active participants who can contribute to shaping their reality by creating a new inclusive and sustainable future on Capitol Hill.

With the hilly landscape of Capitol Hill in mind, it is not likely more sidewalks can be put in without narrowing the already narrow streets. Instead, slow streets could be created on streets that are relatively flat, as well as near greenspaces and daycare centers where there are likely larger concentrations of children playing. It will close portions of the streets to cars and allow a safe space for children to play outside of their houses and small yards. Some sidewalks and slow streets could also include chalk drawing activities for children and families to liven up the neighbourhood. These slow streets will provide spaces for children to take part in unstructured play outdoors during the pandemic and after. This is important as unstructured and child-led play allows children to interact with their environment in a range of different ways.

Figure 4 shows an example of three street sections that are suitable for slow streets.

Figure 4. Cropped Maps of Suggested Slow Streets.
Adapted from, “Capitol Hill” by Google Maps,
retrieved from https://www.google.ca/maps/@49.2886206,-122.9874965,14.63z Copyright n.d., Google maps

In terms of addressing the needs of the elderly, community gardens could be created at the two major greenspaces on the hill. At “viewpoint” in particular, the top of a cement structure is seen as an eye sore in the park. This space could occupy garden beds to liven up the space and help foster community connection for elderly individuals and the rest of the residents on the hill. Community gardens are known for their ability to address social needs and advance community empowerment by encouraging new forms of knowledge and participation from its users. The residents of varying ages and cultures living on the hill could come together and learn from each other and share their knowledge on gardening practices.

“We’ve got to take the assets we’ve got and bring those cultural activities” – Mary Rowe, president and CEO of Canadian Urban Institute


Figure 5. Suggested Locations for Community Gardens.
Adapted from “Capitol Hill” by Google Maps, retrieved from https://www.google.ca/maps/@49.2886206,-122.9874965,14.63z Copyright n.d, Google maps

The pandemic has given me a new perspective on neighborhoods and spatial justice. While Capitol Hill is more privileged than other neighbourhoods, there is still much room for improvement to make it more inclusive and sustainable. By taking a systems thinking approach and considering Human-Centered Design, Capitol Hill can get one step closer to being a more sustainable and inclusive community. Focusing on slow streets and community gardens will allow all residents to have access to a “third place” that fosters community connection during the pandemic and beyond.

References

Bianchetti, C., Boano, C., & Di Campli, A. (2020). Thinking with Quarantine Urbanism? Space and Culture, 23(3), 301–306. https://doi.org/10.1177/1206331220938625

City of Edmonton. (2020, December 16). CITYlab Placemaking Projects (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada). The City of Edmonton. https://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/initiatives_innovation/citylab/projects.aspx

City of Vancouver. (2020). Slow Streets. https://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/slow-streets.aspx

Cumbers, A., Shaw, D., Crossan, J., & McMaster, R. (2018). The Work of Community Gardens: Reclaiming Place for Community in the City. Work Employment and Society, 32(1), 133–149. https://doi.org/10.1177/0950017017695042

Design Kit. (2015). Field Guide to Human-Centered Design. Retrieved December 13, 2020, from https://www.designkit.org/resources/1

Dolley, J. (2020). Community gardens as third places. Geographical Research, 58(2), 141–153. https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-5871.12395

Google Maps. (n.d.). [Capitol Hill Parks]. Retrieved December 15, 2020, from https://www.google.com/maps/place/Capitol+Hill,+Burnaby,+BC/@49.2825651,-123.0066796,14z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x548670b2fc06e0d1:0x291dfdffe1b64c91!8m2!3d49.282567!4d-122.98917

Google Maps. (n.d.). [Capitol Hill Streets]. Retrieved December 15, 2020, from https://www.google.com/maps/place/Capitol+Hill,+Burnaby,+BC/@49.2825651,-123.0066796,14z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x548670b2fc06e0d1:0x291dfdffe1b64c91!8m2!3d49.282567!4d-122.98917

Houser, N. E., Roach, L., Stone, M. R., Turner, J., & Kirk, S. F. L. (2016). Let the Children Play: Scoping Review on the Implementation and Use of Loose Parts for Promoting Physical Activity Participation. Aims Public Health, 3(4), 781–799. https://doi.org/10.3934/publichealth.2016.4.781

MacLeod, M. (2020, September 28). New Normal: 15 ways cities can emerge better than ever after COVID-19. Coronavirus. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/new-normal-15-ways-cities-can-emerge-better-than-ever-after-covid-19-1.5123283

Moskerintz, H. (2020). Placemaking During a COVID-19 Winter. http://www.Nar.Realtor. Retrieved December 16, 2020, from https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/spaces-to-places/placemaking-during-a-covid-19-winter

Orr, D. (n.d.). Systems Thinking and the Future of Cities. The Solutions Journal. Retrieved December 13, 2020, from https://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/article/systems-thinking-and-the-future-of-cities/

UNESCO. (2020, June 22). Urban Solutions: Learning from Cities’ Responses to COVID-19 Meeting 25 June. UNESCO. https://en.unesco.org/news/urban-solutions-learning-cities-responses-covid-19-meeting-25-june

Yuen, F., & Johnson, A. J. (2017). Leisure Spaces, Community, and Third Places. Leisure Sciences, 39(3), 295–303. https://doi.org/10.1080/01490400.2016.1165638

Rail District Community Market

Transforming Space to Promote Food Security

Food is a unifier” – Sherlyne Omangi, Participant

Collaborative Planning to create Grassroots Change

Nestled in the heart of a small community called Abbotsford in British Columbia, Canada, local creators, farmers and an array of entrepreneurs now have a space to showcase their products, facilitate knowledge-transfer and ultimately reach the community with family-friendly entertainment and products.

Through the Global Community Lab, fourty students were taught how to facilitate tactical urbanism by launching the successful Rail District Market. This market project has sustainably bridged the gap from farm to table, artist to collector, and educator to student while providing an equitable, safe space for families and children to flourish.

Creating a Space for Localize Knowledge-Transfer & Food-Security

The goal of the project was to create a low-cost, pop up food market to rally the Abbotsford community and create a platform for conversations about food security, and a space for selling and knowledge-transfer.

Using an old, unused building in downtown, historic Abbotsford as the space for launching the pop-up market, over 25 vendors attended to showcase their knowledge and products, and 400 people from the community arrived to learn more and buy locally.

Building a Sustainable Market

This project has now helped local businesses to recognize the importance of a weekly, local market space in Abbotsford. Since the launch of the pop-up market in 2018, the Rail District Market has occurred weekly to support the networks made between local farmers, artisans, creators, entrepreneurs and the local families that support them.

“It is now clear to me that when you create quick low-cost changes to the built environment, it sure does inspire and improve neighbourhoods and gathering spaces; and the most exciting part was being involved in such an exciting and interactive experience.” – Sherlyne Omangi, Participant

This tangible form of tactical urbanism coordinated by the Global Community Lab has facilitated a sustainable space for knowledge-transfer, networking, local buying and selling, and helped the community recognize the importance of such a needed space for the promotion of food security and local businesses.

“Friendships were made, wisdom was shared and knowledge acquired” – Edith Kemunto, Participant

Using Tactical Urbanism to Empower Urban Farmers & Artisans

“I am happy and proud that a tactical urbanism prototype is happening here in my country”

Agnes Ruth Omollo

Nairobi has a variety of micro and medium enterprises seeking to succeed as urban farmers, especially in the Makadara Sub-County. There are a variety of challenges faced by urban farmers in the Makadara Sub-County inclusive to having a space to share their products and knowledge with fellow farmers and community members.

Creating a Space for the Promotion of Urban Agriculture

In partnership with the University of Nairobi and the University of the Fraser Valley, 25 Masters’ students learned how to facilitate tactical urbanism in the Makadara Sub-County. The goal of the project was to launch a pop-up space for urban farmers, artisans, and entrepreneurs to share their products for the purpose of knowledge-transfer, network-growth and selling.

Hosted at an older social hall covered in graffiti, the Jericho Social Hall in the Makadara Sub-County was brought to life by 20 different vendors, local dancers, students, and over 100 community members.


“The Makadara Food market was perfect for families looking to get groceries. It was also ideal for investors in the beauty market that may require Moringa, flax and other healthy products from scratch. Individuals looking to learn skills would have found a place since the farmers were willing to teach value addition skills such as peanut butter making, and rabbit rearing. The food market was also for a good hang-out for people looking for a good time; entertainment was top-notch and an overall family-friendly event, complete with a kids’ corner.” – Edith Kemunto


Women like Phyllis* were provided a space to share how she manually pasteurizes her milk, adding value by uniquely creating strawberry and vanilla yoghurt. This was in high demand at the Makadara Sub-County Market.

Providing a Vision for the Future

This event also hosted a variety of decision-makers, University professors, sub-county officials, and urban planners that recognized the importance of a public space for participation, knowledge-transfer and the sale of farmed products. Urban farmers and artisans in the Makadara Sub-County are deeply interwoven into the framework of the community, and this act of participation will help facilitate a blueprint moving forward for place-making through their eyes.

The Makadara #Growth market is here to demonstrate that Eastlands Nairobi can be food-safe! – Arthur Mwangi, Participant

*Not her real name

A History Lesson

Jessica Broomfield – GEOG/GD 464 – Dr. Cherie Enns

Since January 2020, COVID-19 has swept the globe, and for cities what once defined them has been temporarily put on hold. Cities across the globe are being tested to their limits as citizens have limited engagement with each other in the urban environment. The fabric of the economies of cities is at risk, as it is built on services and creative industries which are built on interactions and knowledge spillover. This collapse in city economies has taken a toll on municipal budgets, and services are reeling from the burden with many fees not being collected for ridership fares on public transport, in recreation centres, rinks and pools etc. Additionally, civic fees that contribute to the majority of municipal revenues such as property fees are being deferred adding to massive gaps in municipal budgets. These combined pressures have cities headed for a financial crisis and ultimately a loss of public trust in municipal governments.

This is not the first time that the world has witnessed the disappearance of funds for public amenities that are based on large tax bases during a crisis. In Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia’s book Tactical Urbanism, the authors refer to the great recession in 2007 as an example of a time when public amenities dwindled as municipal governments ran out of revenue, which forced people to do more with less. They discuss that despite the fact that tax revenues were not increasing, demand for such services and pressure on municipal governments from the public was still growing (Lydon and Garcia). Lydon and Garcia argue that this led to the rise in Tactical Urbanism forcing governments to consider projects that are more nimble and lower-cost to deliver. They quote Karen Thoreson and James H. Svara on the shift to using an approach focused on Tactical Urbanism, “Local governments have had to rethink their approaches to doing the people’s business” (Lydon and Garcia, 73) These approaches during the financial crisis of 2007 included urban farms, pop-up cinemas, beach-bars as well as old shipping containers that were repurposed into pup-up shops (Martin, Micheal, et al). However, there seems to be a trend with these solutions, that they are merely temporary and end up shutting down post-crisis.

In this pandemic ridden time that we are currently living in, there are examples across the globe of how these low-cost temporary approaches to this crisis are being implemented as citizens put pressure on municipal governments to deliver. Across the world, cities are closing down large sections of roads in the city hubs to allow for more space for cyclists and pedestrians. In Montreal, as citizens called for the reopening of parks and public spaces, 300 kilometres of roads were altered to become more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists (Kovac). In Vancouver, the act of closing down streets has come to be known as “Slow Streets,” which includes closing 50 kilometres of roadways for active travel as well as to allow for restaurants to expand patio space (City of Vancouver). Allowing restaurants to expand their patios onto roads is beneficial to businesses as it expedites the permitting process and gives people the room they need to resume some of their normal activities as well as helping restaurants to increase revenue by increasing seating capacity. A similar project in the Czech Republic has been taken undertaken in the form of a “Gastro Safe Zone” where brightly coloured ground markings are used to encourage passersby to keep their distance from outdoor diners (Harrouk).

Other low-cost approaches cities have taken are handwashing stations that have been placed throughout cities including San Francisco (Canales) and Victoria (Vu), as well as being set up in less developed cities like Mogadishu in Somalia (Hussein). Even the simplest changes have been made to reduce the spread of COVID-19 including redesigning benches, as Milan-based architect has done by equipping benches with plexiglass dividers (Myers). 

Whilst these approaches to the pandemic are currently widely accepted and cater to citizens’ pressures, the question remains: what will happen to these innovative changes when we are living in post-pandemic cities? Will it mirror what happened at the tail end of the financial crisis of 2007 where innovative temporary changes disappeared in favour of business-as-usual development. Or can these temporary changes be made more permanent and become normalized? Could some of the solutions put in place today to address COVID-19 become solutions to challenges that have long existed before the pandemic? Could, for example,  public handwashing stations become more permanent so they could benefit the more vulnerable populations such as the poor and homeless who in ‘normal’ times do not have regular access to basic hygiene? One might argue that the pandemic has exacerbated already broken systems. As roads are becoming more and more restricted to cars as cities open up roadways to cyclists, pedestrians and businesses, could municipal governments see this as an opportunity to combat the ever-worsening issue of congestion by making roads more walkable? COVID-19 has undoubtedly created an opportunity to better our cities.  It is important to acknowledge the potential opportunities that these changes provide to build upon in order to address the long term issues post-pandemic,  rather than accepting them simply as solutions to challenges imposed by COVID-19. 

Works Cited

Canales, Katie. “WASH YOUR HANDS: San Francisco Added Public Hand-Washing Stations throughout the City to Help Combat the Spread of Coronavirus. Here’s What They’re like.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 13 Mar. 2020, http://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-san-francisco-hand-washing-station-2020-3.

City of Vancouver. “City Shares Plans to Introduce 50 Km of Slow Streets and Use Roadways for Patios.” City of Vancouver, 25 May 2020, vancouver.ca/news-calendar/introducing-50-km-of-slow-streets-and-use-roadways-for-patios.aspx.

Harrouk, Christele. “The Gastro Safe Zone: A Public Space Proposal That Considers Social Distancing Measures.” ArchDaily, ArchDaily, 29 Apr. 2020, http://www.archdaily.com/938599/the-gastro-safe-zone-a-public-space-proposal-respecting-social-distancing-measures.

Hussein, Fardosa. “Somalia Braces for COVID-19 Pandemic.” Action Against Hunger, Action Against Hunger, 8 Apr. 2020, http://www.actionagainsthunger.org/story/somalia-braces-covid-19-pandemic.

Kovac, Adam. “Hundreds of Kilometres of Temporary Bike and Pedestrian Paths Coming to Montreal.” CTV News, CTV News, 16 May 2020, montreal.ctvnews.ca/hundreds-of-kilometres-of-temporary-bike-and-pedestrian-paths-coming-to-montreal-1.4940992.

Lydon, Mike, and Anthony Garcia. Tactical Urbanism: Short-Term Action for Long-Term Change. Island Press, 2015.

Martin, Micheal, et al. “Temporary Urban Solutions Help Us Deal with Crisis — and Can Lead to Radical Shifts in City Space.” The Conversation, The Conversation, 27 May 2020, theconversation.com/temporary-urban-solutions-help-us-deal-with-crisis-and-can-lead-to-radical-shifts-in-city-space-135248.

Myers, Lynne. “’Shield’ Is a Bench to Fight COVID-19 Designed by Antonio Lanzillo & Partners.” Designboom, Designboom, 23 May 2020, http://www.designboom.com/design/shield-bench-to-fight-covid-19-antonio-lanzillo-partners-04-17-2020/.

Vu, Duy. “City Provides Six Hand-Washing Stations throughout Community.” The Victoria Advocate, The Victoria Advocate, 18 Mar. 2020, http://www.victoriaadvocate.com/covid-19/city-provides-six-hand-washing-stations-throughout-community/article_a0217700-6962-11ea-90a1-23e6d48af327.html.

Photos Cited

Chan, Kenneth. Temporarily widened sidewalk on Davie Street. 2020. Daily Hive, https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/vancouver-slow-streets-coronavirus.

Harrouk, Christele. 2020. ArcDaily, https://www.archdaily.com/938599/the-gastro-safe-zone-a-public-space-proposal-respecting-social-distancing-measures

Myers, Lynne. 2020. designboom, https://www.designboom.com/design/shield-bench-to-fight-covid-19-antonio-lanzillo-partners-04-17-2020/.

Will Cities Around the World Will evolve after Pandemic

Junyu Xiang/ June 27, 2020/ Blog post

This summer, I took Geo 464 to learn graphic design at multiple levels; I’ve chosen to develop the topic of culture and arts influential city designing during and after the pandemic. It’s undeniable that urbanization is one of the most important driving forces for human social and economic life. In urbanization modern life, even though the majority of human kinds live in suburban areas, most of the economic activity still occurs in urban and metropolitan regions; therefore cities planning and designs determine the essential factors in human society.

In the discussion of the “public area” on May 25’s discussion board, I analyzed the paper about pandemic’s influence on the public place because of the COVID-19, we are limited inside the home because of public areas are risky. However, the limitation on human activity is not a permanent method in the long term; we need to replanning our public space to provide us a better life. Our so-far urban design could not adapt to life during the pandemic (Xiang, May 25, 2020). The situation will be worse outside of North America that the COVID-19 crisis magnified the more on South Africa’s cities livings because of the limitation on water resources (Xiang, May 14, 2020). The most critical part of urban life and makes its unique is: proximity. In typical modern life, the way people daily meet with each other and exchange ide in intensive work centers has achieved many achievements. This idea overlaps with the concept that many millennials (at least those who promote economic development) prefer urban social interactions rather tan suburban lives.  

The fact is the virus has engulfed New York- the densest city in the world, the city’s opponents claim those city constructions are the source of almost all of our problems, including infectious diseases. They state that cities are harmful to people’s health even back to the 18th and 19th’s industrial revolution, our cities developed dramatically from the benefit of the revolution, but our towns became dirtier and polluted. For instance, London is known for its fog, which is a polite term for toxic and air pollution. But the continuous development of cities planing is part of our evolution that humans will adapt to all the kinds of issues in our event. Rural areas are far behind in introducing these solutions, and since the 1950s, suburbs have been struggling to build and maintain these systems in low-density situations. ( (Kinder, Rice, 2020 Mar).

Therefore, we need to build a more sophisticated city with our public health organization. Back in the era before industrial evolution, humans tried to solve most land-use planning by adding space between humans and construction. However, in modern city planning, it’s not accessible for most cities in the world. The threat of infectious diseases may increase the solution of urban design; for example, it may be solved by establishing more isolated areas in public places such as restaurants and parks. (Kinder, Rice, 2020 Mar).

From an interview of Matti Siemiatycki- the associate professor in the Department of Geography in the University of Toronto, he claims that most people will continue to choose to live in the urban for multiple reasons, so the city evolution should keep the pace in next couple moths (U of T News, April 29,2020). In the short term, the pandemic’s impact will affect the city budge profoundly, but it is reasonable to assume that pandemic will be a long-term influence in human history that the subtle changes in urban design will provide a safer space for next generations.

To be specific, our city designing will focus on two significant parts: small local businesses and public space. The local store, retailers, shops, restaurants, and cafes are the lifeblood of the city’s street, and all the small businesses are facing terrible damage for the past few months. Most city designer believes that the government is likely to exacerbate the larger retailers on our streets instead of the small shops to keep a safer distance between the customer in a better manner. On the other hand, our public space will not be lost its flavor and personality because, to maintain the space distance, city designers will contribute more plan facilities to sperate the crowd in a single facility.

Reference:

Here’s  what  our  cities  will  look  like  after  the  coronavirus  pandemic. ( Apirl, 28, 2020). Rice Kinder, Insitutie for Urban Research. Retreived from: https://kinder.rice.edu/urbanedge/2020/03/26/what-our-cities-will-look-after-coronavirus-pandemic

Junyu, Xiang (May 25,2020). Paper Analysis on cities planing in pandemic. GEO 464 Discussion Borad.

Junyu, Xiang (May 14,2020). Reflection on South Afirca and other Hard-hid Area. Geo 464 Discusssion Borad.

Holland, Oscar. (May 9, 2020). Our cities may never look the same again after the pandemic. CNN News. Retreived from:

https://www.cnn.com/style/article/cities-design-coronavirus/index.html

How Will covid-19 change Toronto? U of T’s Matti Siemiatycki on the city’s post-pandemic future.( April 29, 2020) U of T News. Retrevied from:https://www.utoronto.ca/news/how-will-covid-19-change-toronto-u-t-s-m atti-siemiatycki-city-s-post-pandemic-future  

McKinley, Jesse.(Mar 22, 2020). New York city Region is Now an E[icenter of the Coronavirus Pandemic. The New York Times.

Covid-19 Impacts and the Future of Cities

GEOG/GD 464 Student Summer 2020

Local cities have been doing their part to help stop the spread of Covid-19. Some of the main focuses have been on food and transportation, physical distancing, and access to clean water and basic sanitization. Throughout this class, we have explored both locally, and internationally the difficulties and resiliencies that Covid-19 has put on not only cities but their surrounding areas. 

            As far as food systems are concerned, the main fear for many was access to food and the affordability of it. Transportation showed adaptability by not charging for rides, only having their back doors open, and in many transit systems they had every second seat blocked off to help with physical distancing. Physical distancing was enforced (to the best of its ability) by putting up signs, asking people to limit how many family members go in public/to the store, as well as limiting the number of people aloud into stores. As far as access to clean water and basic sanitization, that looks different in different cities, all around the world. 

Many countries were unprepared and almost caught off guard, while some places aren’t able to do anything to prepare due to their local demographics. Some of the current concerns have included: access to adequate shelter, water for sanitization, food security, as well as available healthcare resources to help those who become infected. One of the biggest concerns/individual responsibilities is to social distance, and not get together in groups. 

            In places like Canada and other first-world countries, we were put on lockdown to help slow the spread/flatten the curve, but the article Africa is woefully ill-equipped to cope with covid-19 explains how many countries, self-isolation is an unreasonable ask. In some of the African countries, they need to go out every day or two to get fresh food and water, which means both going to the market and congregating to get water, as well as continuing to work to be able to afford their basic food items. There is no option to hoard goods like what happened in countries like Canada, which then brings up the conversion about food security, and it also was a further issue due to the lack of sanitization. 

When Covid-19 first emerged in Canada, many people went overboard and began hoarding food and cleaning supplies. For example, canned goods, pasta, breads, and meats. The Webinar Food Security and the Global Pandemic on April 30th talks about the difficulties between 3 locations in Canada: Abbotsford, British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta; and Hastings County, Ontario. Although the effects of the pandemic are both similar and different across the country, there were a few points that stood out to me, that some people may not have realized. 

Usage of food banks has significantly increased, but there are many barriers for both supply and access.  Overall, there are less resources available to them (for example, less people donating food as it is already hard to find, less people volunteering due to the fear of contracting Covid-19, etc.). This has opened some areas to the complex issues of food purchasing power and food production. Food purchasing power has come down significantly as many people have seen job losses, which then leads to the ability to afford and purchase food, as well as the safety/risk of actually going to the store to purchase food. We are seeing this constraint across all demographics spread throughout Canada, and beyond. On the other hand, food production has been impacted due to farms having an abundance of food, but no one purchasing from them, due to majority of larger farms having restaurants as their main clients, and with restaurants either closed or working at a very limited capacity, they are losing money and therefore will hurt future business prospects. 

Food is one of the top basic needs that people have reached out for, which is as high on the basic needs scale as housing and homelessness. British Columbia has the largest number of food services (meal programs, food banks, etc.) at 828 programs throughout the province, which makes up almost 30% of all of Canada. (Homelessness Hub, 2012).  Although there has been some pressure alleviated from the food bank sites, by distributions done through schools for families in need, by offering pick up times and/or delivery where needed. There is still not enough resources and volunteers to reach everyone asking for assistance, at least not all at once, but these programs are a positive step in the right direction.

This relates to tactical urbanism, which was a “big picture” idea within our course. “Tactical Urbanism” is where temporary/ “pop-up” changes to a local environment, meant to improve/help local neighborhoods during a time of need (for example, during a pandemic).  In the foreground of Covid-19, it has become apparent that many public streets and businesses have had a drastic response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the use of popular public places were closed (playgrounds, malls, pools, skating rinks, movie theatres, etc.), people have been encouraged to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air, providing they still are within the social distancing measures. This coincides with the lecture Planning the Post Pandemic City in the sense that we need to look further into how we plan our spaces, rather than just “designing a beautiful public space”. 

            In the CNN article Our cities may never look the same after the pandemic, it explains how “six feet” could be the new backbone to future planning. Whether it be cities or public spaces, it will be an important focus so that we will be able to stay out in our communities, in the event of a future pandemic. We also have to think about how daily life will continue while needing to stay 6-feet apart, as people currently are either going overboard and getting mad at people for getting too close, or not thinking distancing is a real thing and continuing to get in your personal space, there doesn’t seem to be much of an “in-between” standpoint.  

            Chapter 2 of Tactical Urbanism shows us how in Woonerf, Netherlands, there is an entire community created towards making a safe place for people a priority, rather than just roadways for vehicles. For example, markets, block parties, and similar events, they block off the roadways for a temporary amount of time, and people are able to walk in places where it is normally too busy to step foot onto the road. This gives a temporary sense of people being able to take control of the public spaces which surround their communities and neighborhoods. 

During this class we have looked at a handful of important topics within our local cities. These topics include: Transit/Transportation, Food Systems and Food Security, Children and Play, Public Systems, Homelessness and Housing, and Culture and Arts. Each topic requires extensive research and planning when it comes to urban planning both during and post-pandemic, including how we can change for a sustainable future with the current pandemic changes in mind. 

For our Citystudio group project, we focused on Housing and Homelessness, both during pandemic and post-pandemic. We found this was an important part of future urban planning in the sense that homeless are a highly populated population. The definition of homeless is “the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, or appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means, and ability of acquiring it” (Homelessness Hub, 2012). 

In the City of Abbotsford alone, there were an average of 250 homeless people between the years of 2017 and 2018, within a single 24-hour count. I predict that those numbers have increased to closer to 300 (if not beyond), due to the cost of living continuing to rise, and the level of income not rising fast enough. There are many reasons why a person is homeless, ranging from: Low income, high rent, addictions, discrimination, mental health, criminal history, no income, disability, having pets, and for some, it is their personal choice (Living Homelessness, 2018) .

            Although we cannot combat homelessness in a single-semester course, we can at least propose ideas to help them protect themselves from diseases, such as Covid-19. Within our project we chose to focus on portable handwashing stations, which would be beneficial to not only homeless, but those of vulnerable populations which frequent areas such as parks, bus stops, and shelters. This would allow people to have access to clean, hot water at any time of the day, even in some remote areas near where homeless people congregate, due to the availability of propane handwashing systems. This may not be the answer on how to solve homelessness, but it is a step towards giving them the opportunity to protect themselves from common diseases. 

                        The future of Cities, post-pandemic, I see staying very similar to the way things are now. Social distancing, no large gatherings, staying home if you have any sign of illness, limiting the number of people in public places, but having outdoor recreation facilities open (eg: waterparks, outdoor pools, lakes, parks, etc.), and increasing the way we have access to information. For example, having a way to track where you have visited (such as an app), in the event where a store or public venue were to have a patron or an employee become ill, they could send an alert to all those who may have been in contact with the infected person, based on them checking in on their app. This will be able to help slow and track the spread on a wider scale, and it will help with future planning, and being able to use the data to see which locations are working out better than others in light of precautions in urban cities. 

References: 

Ababa, A., & Johannesburg, G. (2020, March 26). Africa is woefully ill-equipped to cope with covid-19. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2020/03/26/africa-is-woefully-ill-equipped-to-cope-with-covid-19

City of Chilliwack, 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.chilliwack.ca

Food Security and the Global Pandemic (2020). HelpSeeker. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LJEGp-n52Q&feature=youtu.be

Holland, O. (2020, May 10). Our cities may never look the same again after the pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/style/article/cities-design-coronavirus/index.html

The Homeless Hub. (2012). Retrieved from https://homelesshub.ca/

Living Homelessness [PDF]. (2018). City of Abbotsford.

Lydon, M., Garcia, A., & Duany, A. (2015). Tactical urbanism: Short-term action for long-term change. Washington (D.C.): Island Press.

Coronavirus Pandemic: Looking For Hope In Despair

GEOG/GD 464 Student Summer 2020

Due to the current pandemic situation, the normal operation and development of many cities have been affected. The COVID-19 epidemic has turned most cities in the world into a wilderness (Constable, 2020). China and the United States are the absolute hardest hit areas in this disaster. Wuhan, China is the source of the outbreak. At the same time, the United States’ flu epidemic in the United States has not been resolved, and it is necessary to cope with the raging COVID-19, especially in various cities in California.

Today, nearly half a year before the outbreak, thanks to the efforts of governments and the World Health Organization, most cities in the world have resumed their previous operations. However, through recent media reports, we can find that China is facing a second outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, due to the transportation of seafood products between China and Japan. On the other hand, there are riots in a large number of cities in the United States, as well as the increase in large-scale assembly activities due to the approach of the US elections. Based on the analysis of the current situation, a large number of cities in China and the United States are still suffering from the epidemic, and it is difficult to estimate how long this situation will last. COVID-19 is a disaster all over the world and a nightmare in the city. However, today I would like to talk about the epidemic from a different perspective and show some things that give hope in this disaster.

Italian writer Francesca Melandri published an article during the epidemic called This Is What We Know About Your Future, which was a letter written by European countries after Melandri had been quarantined at home for several weeks. There is a saying “You will feel vulnerable when going out shopping in the deserted streets, especially if you are a woman. You will ask yourselves if this is how societies collapse. (Melandri, 2020)” There are no false statements about the severity of the epidemic. There are no people on the streets, and the city has become very quiet, as if the end of the world has come. However, the fact is not so desperate. Employees  work at home or work remotely, reducing commuting time and eliminating the need to travel early and return, including transportation costs. I believe that most people do not like the rush to get off work and the large amount of time spent. After the start of home isolation, the stress of employees’ lives is reduced. Instead, they have more time to exercise and pay attention to the family, so the happiness index of the working population will increase. On the other hand, during the epidemic, people will strengthen their self-protection awareness and pay more attention to personal hygiene and personal education in life. After the epidemic has ended, this habit has a high probability of being retained, which will reduce the number of sick and medical treatments in the future. For human factors in the city, the above two points are definitely benefits that cannot be ignored.

Many countries encourage “social isolation” where possible.

The ecological situation has always been the focus of urban development. Natural ecosystems are relatively stable ecosystems maintained by natural regulation capabilities, but natural ecosystems are often destroyed by the way cities operate. Natural ecosystems are relatively stable ecosystems maintained by natural regulation capabilities, but natural ecosystems are often  destroyed by the way cities operate. Wild animals in the city are declining due to poor living conditions or being hunted, and the activity of microorganisms is inhibited, resulting in incomplete decomposition function. Due to the emergence of the epidemic and its causes, led by China, many countries have promulgated laws prohibiting the consumption and trading of wild animals and plants (Vaughan, 2020). The emergence of laws means that the ecosystem will receive more attention and attention. I believe that more countries will support and consider issuing similar laws. The recovery of natural ecology is beneficial to cities, countries and the world.

Illustration by Kelsey King.

Compared with natural ecosystems, artificial ecosystems in cities are more important. All facilities in the city are made by people, they are the main body of the artificial ecosystem. Artificial ecosystems affect industry, construction, and transportation in cities. They require a lot of energy, but they also bring a lot of pollution. It is undeniable that due to the outbreak, medical facilities have been heavily used, resulting in increased medical sewage and increased pressure on the city’s sewage system. However, the small and medium-sized industries in various cities were forced to close due to the epidemic situation, which greatly reduced carbon emissions and sewage emissions. According to NASA’s air quality report, since the outbreak began and the Chinese government took corresponding measures, China found that pollution in Wuhan and other parts of China was significantly reduced (Stieg, 2020). At the same time, because of the significant reduction in carbon emissions, the air quality, water resources and environmental quality of most cities in the world have been greatly improved during the isolation of citizens’ homes, which has slowed the trend of global warming (Agravante, 2020). If conditions permit, I think learning and improving the urban artificial ecosystem during the epidemic will create many opportunities for environmental problems in the world.

NASA pictures show that China’s air pollution has improved significantly.

As David Harvey mentioned in his book, the concept of urban rights is far more than the personal freedom of obtaining urban resources (Harvey, 2008). Looking at the epidemic from another perspective, it will be a surprising discovery. Perhaps the epidemic can look like a warning, allowing people to re-see the original face of cities that are not packaged by various enterprises and projects, and reflect on and progress through the epidemic. However, Coronavirus Pandemic is still a disaster faced by all mankind. People in all countries and cities should maintain an open and cooperative attitude. I sincerely hope that people still affected by the epidemic can pay attention to personal hygiene, remain rational, and believe that in their own country, everything will be good.

References

Agravante, M. (2020, April 20). COVID-19 and its effects on the environment. Retrieved from INHABITAT: https://inhabitat.com/covid-19-and-its-effects-on-the-environment/

Constable, H. (2020, April 26). How do you build a city for a pandemic? Retrieved from BBC: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200424-how-do-you-build-a-city-for-a-pandemic

Harvey, D. (2008, September). THE RIGHT TO THE CITY. Retrieved from NewLeftReview: https://newleftreview.org/issues/II53/articles/david-harvey-the-right-to-the-city

Melandri, F. (2020, March 27). What We Know About Your Future. Retrieved from Support The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/27/a-letter-to-the-uk-from-italy-this-is-what-we-know-about-your-future

Schuijers, L. (2020, April 18). COVID-19 IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO RESET OUR ENVIRONMENTAL FUTURE. Retrieved from PURSUIT: https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/covid-19-is-an-opportunity-to-reset-our-environmental-future

Stieg, C. (2020, March 6). NASA images show ‘significant decreases’ in air pollution over China amid coronavirus economic slowdown—take a look. Retrieved from CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/02/nasa-images-chinas-air-pollution-decreased-amid-coronavirus-measures.html

Vaughan, A. (2020, April 2). Coronavirus: China wildlife trade ban could become law within months. Retrieved from New Scientist: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2239559-coronavirus-china-wildlife-trade-ban-could-become-law-within-months/

Pandemic and urban future

GEOG/GD 464 Student Summer 2020

The pandemic will have an impact on the city’s future planning.

During COVID-19, many cities exposed design shortcomings. Some basic functions of the city cannot function properly during the pandemic, which has caused many countries and regions to reconsider the design and operation of the city. Of course, the pandemic also prompted the government to take some temporary measures, such as increasing bicycle lanes, setting social distances, and canceling pedestrian crossing buttons. These interim measures obviously have caused some changes in urban design. Also, some governments are considering whether these measures can be set as new standards. This blog will discuss the impact of the pandemic on current and future urban design.

During the pandemic

Text Box: Credit: miss3/Hua Hua Architects. CNN’s report “Our cities may never look the same again after the pandemic” discusses the impact of pandemics on cities,” With Covid-19 lockdowns vastly reducing the use of roads and public transit systems, city authorities – from Liverpool to Lima – are taking advantage by closing streets to cars, opening others to bicycles and widening sidewalks to help residents maintain the six-foot distancing recommended by global health authorities.” (Oscar Holland, CNN, 2020). From CNN’s report, we can learn about the streets to cities and communities Importance. The street is our most important public space in daily life, it is very important. At the same time, it is also the part of a city that needs to make the most changes in a pandemic. In order to avoid infection, people must maintain social distance, so the design of the street is very important during the pandemic. Many cities have made changes on the streets, such as removing sidewalk buttons, separating areas with lines to maintain distance, and installing partitions on benches. The CNN report mentioned the concept of “six feet” to ensure that people have a certain social distance. Many countries also use it as a regulation during the pandemic. Closing some streets to provide more bicycle lanes is also a good measure. It allows people to avoid crowded traffic such as subways and buses, thereby reducing the risk of infection. These regulations are likely to continue after the pandemic. We can see that these are effective and good measures. Even if it is not during a pandemic, these measures will bring great convenience to our lives. However, before the pandemic, people did not expect to change. There is no doubt that the pandemic promoted the development of urban design.

City future

Text Box: Police officers march through a street in Dharavi, one of Asia's largest slums, after a nationwide lockdown in India to slow the spread of COVID-19 is extended, during the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Mumbai, India, April 11, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Francis MascarenhasAlthough this pandemic is not over yet, we can already sum up some experiences. In this pandemic, the biggest problem is the density of cities. Although there are some problems with the public health system, the origin of those problems is still urban density. As Hussain Indorewala and Shweta Wagh mentioned in “After the Pandemic, Will We Rethink How We Plan Our Cities?”, “A city’s ability to limit the scale and severity of a crisis and disaster ultimately depends on extent of popular control over decision making, the level of social equity, the quality of our public infrastructure, and the responsiveness of our planning system. Our cities are vulnerable, because we have weakened their ability to anticipate, prepare and respond to crises. They are vulnerable, not because they have high aggregate densities, but because they are highly unequal in terms of living conditions, services, incomes and access. They are vulnerable, because we have prioritized luxury mobility over livelihoods, real-estate mega-projects over ecosystem services, monetizing land over community services.” (Wagh, 2020) The high density of cities has caused many problems. For example, the streets are not wide enough to ensure social distance, and the per capita medical resources are insufficient. There are no medical resources to deal with the advent of the pandemic. City density is a factor that must be considered in urban design, but no one can be completely sure of the city’s development trajectory. Therefore, we need to constantly check and update our design. We can let the residents of the city participate in urban design for better solving the existing problems.

In general, a pandemic was a disaster. But for urban design, it is an opportunity for reflection. The pandemic will promote urban development. We may not be able to foresee the next disaster, but we cannot allow the outdated urban design to affect our destiny.

References

Oscar Holland, CNN. (2020, May 9). Our cities may never look the same again after the pandemic. Retrieved from CNN: https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/cities-design-coronavirus/index.html?fbclid=IwAR1Yr3i4bNJrC-f4qhkBNQiM08YSHieZwOYP3DvlWCcp6nquOKvCLMo4y8k%20

Wagh, H. I. (2020, April 30). After the Pandemic, Will We Rethink How We Plan Our Cities? Retrieved from The Wire: https://thewire.in/urban/city-planning-pandemic