Rethinking Urban Planning in a Post COVID World

Is COVID-19 pushing urban planners to think aloud about redesigning more resilient cities?

Introduction by Mary Haverland, Technical Executive, Planning and Mobility, WSP in Australia 

"The pandemic sharply disrupted our everyday lives—how we work, study, shop, hang out, and play. As we emerge from the shutdown and move into recovery, we are questioning which changes will “snap back” to how they were before, and which trends will linger and shape a different future for our built environment.

In Australia and New Zealand, we have long derided our suburban sprawl and sought a more compact, higher density, urban form. But just as previous health events contributed to the rise of the Garden Suburb movement over a century ago, this pandemic has left many of us cherishing our suburban space—back gardens with veggie patches and trampolines, the new status symbols of envy. Coffee from the rediscovered neighborhood milk bar and cycle ride around the local park are strangely satisfying experiences.

The 30-minute city policies are starting to make sense. We had spoken in theory of retiming, remoding, rerouting, or reconsidering our peak hour journeys—but it all seemed too difficult in practice. Now, the realized flexibility of skipping the daily commute or spending more time with family/friends/flatmates is hard to let go of.

The yearning desire for air, fresh air, free from bushfire smoke or unseen pollutants, reinvigorates our commitment to living in a cleaner environment.

As planning professionals, we will support measures that reactivate our public places and local economies. Whilst we hope social isolation practises can quickly fade, we expect design resilience to future events will be highly valued. And we anticipate the desire for polycentric transit-orientated city forms that feel spacious but are also sustainable and locally vibrant, with healthy streets and travel choices for all, will remain central to our urban vision."


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