The Downfall of the Social City

When looking at the post-pandemic city, the main change we see is how quiet it is. With people setting up offices at home, the cities are dealing with the consequences of this. Once full of life, the city isn't filled with the energy as it once was. We want to explore how the social parts of cities have changed and how planners of the future need to think about this within their work.

Social interaction has been an integral part of the human race and we saw it bloom in cities. We live, work, talk, commute, and thrive in the city; in terms of planning, public spaces play the ‘greatest role as a catalyst for social change’, allowing the transfer of ideas and freedom of expression with an unknown audience, who eventually become a close part of our lives. Urban squares are strongly associated with the public image of the cities they belong to. The success of public spaces is directly related to the existence of people; therefore public spaces should provide 'what people want in an attractive and safe environment' (Carmona et al., 2003,). Public Spaces have been an essential asset of every city and a necessary part of every masterplan. However, with COVID-19, social interaction is considered harmful and deathly. A significant part of humanity is steadily dying, the city has become empty with no people to fill its streets and keep it alive.

We need thriving cities, now more than ever. Our desire to congregate is deep-rooted, social decline would not only be bad for the city but would ultimately be detrimental to us all. The success of cities is vital. They’re our economic engines, cultural crucibles, and innovative milieus. (Peter Hall, 1998) Good cities are great places to be human. They will be different tomorrow for sure, but that has always been the case and spatial designers have an important role in shaping change.

Looking forward, the city will be forced to adapt, this pandemic will spur an immediate re-evaluation of safety in our dense environment. Companies will likely take on an agile workspace allowing employees to work from home, public transport will have increased ventilation, and events like concerts will likely have reduced capacities or increased distancing. This will surely be a larger priority for planners, and we will probably see spaced out seating and increased outdoor recreational areas in the future as a result (World Economic Forum). However, the Influenza pandemic of 1918 did lead to the ‘Roaring 20’s’, so although it isn’t certain that the city’s social fabric will forever be altered, it’s sure that new considerations will be taken from now on.

Cities are flexible, have been the focal points of civilisation for millennia and survived far worse than Covid-19. However, when we are fighting a worldwide pandemic, containment measures have a huge negative impact on the vitality of the city. In the end the planners need to re-develop and re-think the urban fabric while thoroughly examining the global issue at hand.


'Importance of Urban Squares as Public Space in Social Life', Armin Abbasian, 2016

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