The Pandemic and the Public Realm
March 3, 2021
Featuring more than 30 innovative public space programs and projects since COVID-19 public health measures began in Spring 2020, The Pandemic and the Public Realm: Global Innovations for Health, Social Equity, and Sustainability showcases how temporary, flexible, equitable, and iterative projects can be more responsive to quickly changing needs while building support for future projects in the recovery.
This look book documents the innovations so that, in the midst of the many devastating effects of the pandemic, cities can take inspiration from examples of adaptability and creativity around the world. Urban planners, designers, artists, city officials, and residents all can learn from these perspectives, carrying forward cities’ ideas even after the pandemic is over.
As city leaders learn from one another during and after this crisis, they can reflect on these public realm innovations—and their own approaches to public space throughout the pandemic—to sustain their work moving forward and to create healthier and more equitable places.
The profiles in this look book fall into four categories:
- Streateries, Businesses, and Neighborhoods. To support local businesses and community life, cities encouraged outdoor dining, safe shopping, and efforts to ensure that residents can meet all their basic needs within their own neighborhoods.
- Slow/Open Streets and Bike Network Expansions. By closing streets to car traffic and expanding bike networks, cities reclaimed streets for pedestrian and cyclist use.
- Creative Placemaking and Public Art. Arts initiatives provided information about COVID-19 safety precautions, attracted people to local business districts, and thanked frontline workers.
- Innovations in Parks. Cities made existing parks safer, such as by drawing social distancing circles, and found creative new spaces to serve as parks, such as by opening golf courses to the public.
Although each profiled city is distinctive, the following main themes emerged:
- Temporary, flexible, low-cost, and iterative projects can respond to rapidly changing needs while building support and collecting data for more permanent projects in the future.
- The most successful public realm interventions and associated programs have challenged assumptions—and ultimately altered perspectives—on entrenched policies and public realm needs.
- The majority of these efforts were led by city agencies—often in collaboration with local businesses, building owners, and nonprofit organizations. The public sector can play an essential role in cross-sector coordination while also streamlining necessary permitting processes and project approvals.
- Cities can maximize the impact of multiple local projects by combining efforts. For example, creative placemaking initiatives can complement a slow streets program, making both more effective.
- Equitable, people-centric public space has been essential during the pandemic, and continuing to prioritize equity will remain critical in the recovery and beyond.
Public Space Image Gallery
Check out the full report on Knowledge Finder.
ULI Health Leaders Network Cohort 4 Participants
The Building Healthy Places Initiative is delighted to announce the 2021 participants in the fourth cohort of the ULI Health Leaders Network