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Cities That Heal: How The Coronavirus Pandemic Could Change Urban Design

Only a few vehicles line the streets of downtown Toronto, Ontario on March 24, 2020. (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images)
Only a few vehicles line the streets of downtown Toronto, Ontario on March 24, 2020. (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images)

Can we design cities that heal? We talk with an architect and urban planner about how to change the brick-and-mortar world for better human health.


Michael Murphy, founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group, an architecture and design. ( @MASSDesignLab)

Ken Greenberg, principal of Greenberg Consultants. Former director of urban design and architecture for the city of Toronto. ( @KGreenbergTO)

Graph: ‘Improving Health by Design in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area’

Read the entire report here.

From The Reading List

World Bank Blogs: “ A functional city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic” — “Cities are currently being tested to the extreme with the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Simultaneously a health crisis, social crisis, and economic crisis, COVID-19 is laying bare how well cities are planned and managed. Its impact is showing the extent to which each city is able to function – or not – especially during times of crisis.”

Boston Globe: “ The role of architecture in fighting a pandemic” — “When an epidemic of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis emerged in Tugela Ferry, South Africa, in 2006, it was a building that deserved some of the blame.”

Architectural Record: “ Pandemic Shifts Profession’s Focus to Health Care” — “Over the last several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended almost every aspect of day-to-day life, infecting millions of people across the globe, hundreds of thousands of whom have died. Many in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry have turned their focus to the rapid delivery of health-care facilities, to treat the ill and attempt to stave off the pandemic’s spread, and much of that work has been concentrated in coronavirus hot spots like New York.”

Architect Magazine: “ MASS in Context” — “Ask anyone who works at MASS Design Group about how they joined the Boston- and Kigali, Rwanda–based nonprofit design firm, and you’ll hear tales of discontent with the architectural establishment and searching for deeper purpose in design. Take junior associate Bethel Abate, who, sitting in MASS’s board room overlooking Boston Common, offers a politely devastating takedown of American architectural education.”

Ken Greenberg Diary: “ Covid-19 Reflections” — “In this moment of crisis we are witnessing remarkable examples of turning on a dime, of coming together to make the impossible possible, allowing ourselves to try new things and experiment. Can we capitalize on that momentum when the peak passes and we focus on renewal of our cities?”

Daily Commercial News: “ Public health experts should be at the urban design table: Consultant” — “Dense cities are not Petri dishes that spread the coronavirus, but the pandemic is an opportunity to rethink city design and planning models to better prepare for future crises.”

Los Angeles Times: “ Commentary: Past pandemics changed the design of cities. Six ways COVID-19 could do the same” — “Although pandemics have long been a tragic scourge on our cities, they’ve also forced architecture and city planning to evolve. The bubonic plague, which wiped out at least a third of Europe’s population in the 14th century, helped to inspire the radical urban improvements of the Renaissance. Cities cleared squalid and cramped living quarters, expanded their borders, developed early quarantine facilities, opened larger and less cluttered public spaces and deployed professionals with specialized expertise, from surveyors to architects.”

NPR: “ Opinion: Redesigning The COVID-19 City” — “The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world’s bustling cities to a screeching halt. The outbreak has revealed how urban centers are the front and last lines of defense against infectious disease outbreaks. They are also the key to leading national and global recovery.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.