Covid-19 has enforced a sudden shift to many aspects of our lives, it has altered our lifestyle, work pattern, education, social boundaries, and many more. Like many nations around the world, the lockdown has left us with time to reflect and reassess our priorities and the ways we used to live and think. Architecture is a regularity that shapes both our indoor spaces, through the design of buildings, and outdoor experiences, through the design of cities. Previously nations were competing to create architecture that stands out as landmarks and promotes both tourism and the image of the country. This meant buildings needed to be bigger and taller to reach up to this image.
Currently, with the lockdown and the closure of many buildings, multiple images of previously bustling downtown areas imposed a rethink of how we used to shape our cities. When it came down to necessities, all large-scale malls were left empty and office buildings were run by a limited number of users. The virtual environment became the medium where communications between many stockholders took place.
This imposes a reflection on the actual need for such large buildings in the first place. During the pandemic we have become accustomed to completing many transactions online, this includes paying utility bills, banking, shopping, working, learning, and much more. When foreseeing the impact of this transition, imagine how much space we could clear up in our cities enabling more open spaces, reducing heat island effect, and building footprint at the same time. Other reflections included the need to cater for emergency early detection and treatment centres. Large open spaces within cities allowed such immediate interventions to happen. Not to add that most recently these open spaces were also used to host large events where social distancing was still required.
The notion of smart cities and sustainable cities comes immediately into mind when reflecting on the impacts of Covid-19. In terms of smart cities, the enforcement of shared real-time data would further allow alerts and required contingency protocols such as social distancing to take place. For example, when a whole network of sensors and data sharing is available, parking and vehicular movement could be organised to avoid overcrowded parking lots in addition to saving time in allocating parking spots. This will be specifically beneficial if associated with a service that needs a physical presence. Another application that could prove beneficial during lockdown is related to detecting overcrowded areas. By using thermal sensing, the enforcement of social distancing would be applicable, allowing authorities to be informed whenever public areas are being overcrowded, and the breach of social distancing laws is in place.
To apply the concept of sustainable cities, on the other hand, multiple aspects need to be identified, this includes addressing the three pillars of sustainability, the economic, social and environmental margins. Overpopulated and denser urban areas proved to be more prone to the spread of the virus. One of the reflections that could be applicable along this line could be rethinking the spread of the population within countries, in addition to applying the LIVE, PLAY and WORK concept in new settlements. Through decentralising and the provision of public amenities, working opportunities and leisure facilities, control over both the density and the spread of the virus would deem successful.
To conclude, despite the losses that Covid-19 has imposed on all nations around the world, it has given us numerous lessons for the future. Planning our cities should be done differently after today. We should be thinking in a more sustainable and resilient way to cope with any changes the future may hold.