News and Articles

Employing Placemaking to Design Resilient Cities

Photo Credit: ©2012 James Steinkamp/Steinkamp Photography/courtesy Perkins and Will
March 27, 2020

Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen places like the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Times Square in New York, all devoid of the bustling crowds and activity we are used to seeing. 

With widespread orders to self-isolate and quarantine, what were once vibrant areas where people came together, stand now eerily empty. Cities across the world, along with the day-to-day activities and human interactions that take place within them, are now viewed as threats to our health and something that we need to shut down.

But, can cities actually be redesigned to prevent future pandemics?

Adele Peters, a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world’s largest problems, believes so, and explored this question further in her piece: “How we can redesign cities to fight future pandemics.” 

Peters finds opportunities in simple changes like improving access to public handwashing stations, more complex ones like installing air treatment systems in buildings that can eliminate viruses, and increasing access to outdoor spaces and parks, which improves health and wellbeing in a plethora of ways and also reduces air pollution.

What it comes down to is that we need to take an approach of placemaking — strengthening the connection between people and the places they share — to design the resilient cities we all want and need. 

Our built environment plays a direct role in our day-to-day lives and we must be conscious of how it impacts our ability to interact with one another, respond to health crises, and foster social connectedness. 

Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, so many places that were once for gathering and community resilience have become areas that are now off limits. With a placemaking approach and innovative design, we can ensure that cities remain beacons of community cohesion in the face of COVID-19 and any future pandemic.