As the pandemic does not show any sign of stopping, cities have started to take real measures in dealing with the multiple changes that appeared, from new ways of working to education, housing, mobility, etc. Although usually, this kind of decisions require a longer period of testing, in this particular situation, specific actions were taken and real study cases emerged.
In the USA, for example, the city of Baltimore with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Baltimore Development Corporation and the city’s nonprofit Neighborhood Design Center have created a contest to find ideas for cost-efficient places, that would allow human interaction while respecting the social distancing criteria. From 162 applications from specialists, such as architects, designers and urbanists, the “Design for Distancing Ideas Guidebook” was born.
This free document proposes 10 plans, with very self-explanatory names, that would help re-designing urban spaces. All the projects provide temporary and modular solutions for Baltimore’s neighbourhoods, parking slots and vacant terrains. What is truly innovative about these proposals is the holistic and comprehensive approach towards the different aspects of city life – from retail to pop-up stores or services to art classes. These are some of the names that caught my eye:
- – Make ApArt, by Quinn Evans (Ethan Marchant, Steve Schwenk) uses shipping containers to provide a ‘physically safe, collectively social venue that brings diverse groups together using art classes, performances and other encounters.’
- – The Food Court, by Department Design Office (Maggie Tsang, Isaac Stein), ‘transforms vacant lots into communal outdoor dining gardens.’ This arrangement comes with a hand-washing station, umbrellas, tables, chairs and a loooot of greenery.
- – ParKIT, by Ayers Saint Gross (Abby Thomas, Michael McGrain, Connor Price), ‘is a mobile park kit-of-parts, housed in a portable kiosk that can be transported by car.’ A very simple idea, highly efficient and… on wheels. The word that can describe this initiative is mobility.
For the other seven plans, please, click here!
What Baltimore shows is that real civic engagement and a strong collaboration between the local administration and the private sector generate fresh, affordable and ready-to-be-maid ideas for the well-being of the community.
The ‘15-Minute City’
Across the pond, there is another example of unconventional measures taken already by the administration for the city revival. The pioneer, for the ‘15-Minute City’ movement, is Paris, a city where over 21.000 people live per square mile. Here, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has initiated a series of actions (more bike lanes, fewer cars, encouraging the use of public transport, mixing as many activities as possible in the same place) aimed at creating a ‘hyper-proximity’, where your job, your school, your shop, your library or favourite museum and your hospital are within a 15 minutes walk or bike ride.
When first mentioned, this idea seemed too far fetched for a city like Paris. But, as decisive steps were taken, such green initiatives gain more popularity. The French influence is highly visible in the newest report from C40 Cities, released on the 15th of July – ‘Mayors’ Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery’.
The document presents daring programmes to lead an upright and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, by focusing on creating green jobs, on investing in crucial public services, on protecting mass transit, on supporting essential workers and on giving public spaces back to people and nature. The C40 Cities comprises mayors and specialists from around the globe.
As the pandemic has changed in a way our lives and has limited our travels, cities are responding fast and on point. Perhaps new green solutions, such as encouraging and creating a safe space biking, walking, working, learning and interacting, are not the worst scenario for a new, post-COVID world.
Check the previous article about another successful example of good management of the COVID-19 pandemic!