The current COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly changing the way we live and how we work. Do these changes mean a lasting impact on the design and architecture of our cities? We spoke with UBC Professor Patrick Condon, James Taylor’s Department of Landscape and Living Environment, at the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and the founder of the UBC Urban Design Department.
How does the COVID-19 pandemic change urban life?
Social distancing begins, this can be seen in fear in the eyes of those who walk the streets of our city. Suddenly narrow sidewalks become uncomfortable. Adapting to the new norm will take time. We are currently in a time of ignorance (meetings on Keats Beach without social distance) and fear (people cross the streets to avoid confrontation on the sidewalks). None of these things are good. In some cities, such as Portland, they have street parties where neighbors gather with their favorite drink at 18:00. on sidewalks and boulevards at a safe, but still conversational distance. I hope this happens here, but at the moment people are confused and scared.
What are the potential consequences of the current crisis for the use and development of transit systems?
I think this will be another blow to urban transit, which is ironic, because transit will be needed to solve the climate crisis, and some argue that the global pandemic is caused by disruptions in natural systems caused by climate change. This is likely to be an incentive for the cycling industry. Unfortunately, the province did not make electric cars a prerequisite for travel when they had such an opportunity. It could be a silver trim for air quality in cities over time.
How do you think this will affect the way we design and build our cities? Will there be fewer high-density apartment buildings?
The rich will retreat even more under the protection of porters and gated communities. Sanitary cars with drivers on call. Everyone else will be more afraid of any social contact, at least for a number of years, if not decades or more. Remote work will accelerate dramatically.
Our current trend of housing inequality in the region needs to be addressed when it is finished. It makes no sense to continue the trend when more and more wealthy live in Vancouver, and wage earners provide services to the city (teachers, health workers, food industry workers) are all forced further and further east. In times of pandemic, this inequality is becoming increasingly apparent as it jeopardizes the work of workers and disrupts the normal functioning of the city. This is one of the reasons why I have long called for the construction of thousands of non-market housing units in Vancouver to provide housing for our employees. The lion's share of profiteering tax and school taxes was imposed on Vancouver’s property, but we don’t see money being returned town to fix our housing crisis.
How will this affect public services such as public libraries and recreation facilities?
Similarly, those public gathering sites that are already weakened by the Internet will be weakened even more. And with the transfer of public funds to the fight against the plague, they will suffer from a reduction in funding. Unfortunately, I foresee a further decline in our civilian infrastructure and a decrease in taxpayer support for these functions. In the end, I suspect that our post-crisis fears will be more basic: that is, where I can live at an affordable price and how I can get safe access to work and services.
University of British Columbia
The city after the pandemic: an expert on how coronavirus will affect future cities (2020, March 24)
restored March 24, 2020
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