The Department of International Urbanism joins the initiative ‘A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’

COVID-19 // 2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Department of International Urbanism joins the initiative ‘A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’, jointly promoted by City Space Architecture and The Chinese University of Hong Kong, School of Architecture.

The initiative is co-funded by the RGC Fund Project: “Built Environment and Planning for Healthy Cities”, School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Curators: Luisa Bravo and Hendrik Tieben.

Description of the initiative

Social distance dictated by COVID-19 health emergency affects access to public space and with it creating a range of impacts on different levels. While global lockdown is destabilizing economy and challenging country leaders, at the human level the pandemic is generating isolation and loneliness, with a significant raise of helplessness and fear. Everyone is asked to stay home and rearrange daily routines and work activities in indoor domestic spaces, looking at the world from behind a window.
People are dying alone, numbers are increasingly high. Outdoor physical activities are no longer allowed. Many governments seem to lack proper strategies to manage the risk of massive contagion. In the Global South the poor living in informal settlements have scarce access to water, washing hands could be dangerously impossible.
What is the future of public space? How can we face this unprecedented emergency and get prepared to its consequences, in specific regard to health disparity? Public space restrictions will stay in place after recovering from the pandemic?
Is there something we can do now all together?
We, public space scholars and activists, believe that we can build social and health resilience by establishing an open environment for discussion and learning, while taking advantage of technology and virtual platforms that many can currently access for free. As the pandemic moves across different continents and urban conditions, we can share experiences from places where the virus had hit earlier or where recovery will start first.

Program of activities
1. ENGAGEMENT (April 2020 – July 2021): collection of information on a dedicated platform, through surveys and sharing of text, pictures, short videos, local news from different, intergenerational social groups from all geographical areas, regarding the current situation of public space and indoor daily routines from a personal perspective, and its evolution throughout the year.

2. DISCUSSION (May – August 2020): a series of webinars on Zoom with global experts to discuss about the current situation and its consequences, by presenting innovative approaches and creative practices, touching different topics related to public health, social interaction and the future of public space.
Webinars are hosted by The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

3. PUBLICATION (June 2020): a special issue of ‘The Journal of Public Space’. The issue will include articles with perspectives and commentaries from global experts and a portfolio with outcomes of step 1- Engagement and first and more relevant outcomes of step 2 – Discussion. The issue is expected to be published online at the beginning of June.
CALL FOR PAPERS: We would like to collect short papers, as commentaries or reflections on the current situation and/or the post covid-19 world. Submission are expected no later than May 15 at with:
– title, name of author(s), affiliation and email address, abstract (150 words) and up to 5 keywords
– short paper of max 2.000 words, including images and captions and bibliographical references
This special issue will not be a regular double-blind peer reviewed issue, since we do not have enough time for several rounds of review. But we will work in order to keep the high standards and quality of research papers, engaging leading academic scholars in the editorial review.

4. FOLLOW-UP LEARNING (May – November 2020): an online course to rethink public space during and after pandemics and a special event to take place in Bologna, Italy, in November 2020 (dates to be announced).

5. LONG TERM LEARNING (December 2020 – July 2021): an educational program entirely dedicated to public space, the Public Space Academy –, that will include also contents related to risk management and resilience during public health emergencies. A final workshop, at the end of the programme, is expected to take place in Bologna, Italy, in July 2021 (dates to be announced).