2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic! new publication of The Journal of Public Space
The Journal of Public Space published ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’. This monumental publication of 280 pages witnesses the year we all lived on social distance dictated by COVID-19 health emergency, a measurement severely affected everyone’s access to public space and with it creating a range of impacts on different levels. Delft University of Technology, as a worldwide recognised leader in the field of urban design and public space, united with more than twenty universities globally to question; how can we face this unprecedented emergency and get prepared to its consequences, with specific regard to health disparity? Will public space restrictions stay in place after the recovery period? Should we just aim to return to a pre-COVID status quo, or for a ‘better normal’? And more generally, what will be the future of public space?
Maurice Harteveld, part of the scientific board, remembers how the situation induced by the COVID-19 crisis in early 2020 immediately brought together the global community of experts on the Design of Public Space; “I remember how the alarm bells didn’t stop anymore in the third week of April. Health situation worsened progressively in China, and a new decree imposing quarantine became in act in Northern Italy. Public space was abandoned there. Without doubt, we started to share local insights and form a global perspective on the issues arising from the pandemic for public space the current situation of public space.” Together with UN-Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, this became an opportunity to collaborate to re-think how cities should be.
As the pandemic was moving across different continents and urban conditions, through shared online initiative public space experts across the world exchanged experiences of care, solidarity, entrepreneurship, academic perspectives, artistic interpretations, and creative practices of human resilience, engaging more than 100 speakers during 20 webinars from May to September 2020, and more than 2,700 registered attendees from over 80 countries, including representatives from UNHabitat. Global impact of the online initiative ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’ has been even broader by counting more than 72,000 page views in that same period. This publication encapsulates key learnings globally from the early stage of the pandemic, which stand relevant to this day when we face squarely the same issues as we step into gradually and navigate the post-COVID era.
In this video, you will get an explanation on how mental maps help us to (re)imagine port-cities in two steps: First, by explaining generally why people draw what they draw, and second, by explaining how images of port cities, as displayed in mental maps, are rooted and influenced by cultural frameworks of experience, and how they are biased according to the particular background of the beholder.
In this video, you hear more about the concept of a ‘mental map’, the mapping method, or the underlying theory, and why it matters, and how you can use it to educate others.
But before you watch, choose a port-city, and do a small exercise: sketch a map of your port city from memory.
If you have trouble getting started, just imagine you are walking through your port city. What would you see on the way? Are there specific elements or landmarks that stand out? Those are the kind of elements to include in your map. And don’t worry about getting all the details exactly right, it is just a sketch…
Do this all by yourself: close your laptop, put your tablet to sleep, turn your smartphone around, do not consult any books, and do not talk to anyone…
Draw your map on a blank, unlined sheet of paper, and don’t spend more than ten minutes on this task!
Don’t worry about details; this map is not meant to be perfect!
In the spring of 2021, the Delft University of Technology, COB Platform of Subsurface Construction, the Environmental Department of the Flemish Government, and the Deltametropolis Association have started a design study exploring the possibilities of integral and multifunctional use of space within highly densified cities. Design consortia from practice have been invited to choose from a number of cases in The Netherlands and Flanders involving spatial bottlenecks in public space, subsurface, and buildings. Seven teams have already started.
Underground Use of Space as a Game-Changer Due to the convergence of a multitude of tasks and transitions (energy, climate, circularity, mobility) in ever densifying cities, the pressure on public space is increasing. It is especially today because these cities also have to absorb a large share of the housing assignment, following the aims to preserve the rural landscape as well as to reduce the pressure on the current mobility system. However, how much densification is (still) possible for locations that are already overloaded with functions and programs and where the public space – both above ground and below ground level – threatens to silt up and get stuck?
Current and future space claims require careful consideration of the options for using space more effectively and efficiently, with the aim of increasing the ‘spatial efficiency’ of the city in an innovative way.
In the design study, partners focus on a different view of the organisation of urban programmes and transition tasks while they search for new ways of thinking, patterns, and solutions for integral and multifunctional use of space from the cross-section.
The central question:
How can integral and multifunctional use of public space, subsoil, and buildings within a densified urban environment create space and value that contribute to an attractive and future-proof living environment?
The design study has resulted in various spatial designs with visions of the future and implementation strategies. A number of urban locations as case studies are being worked on, namely Ostend, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Mechelen, Leuven, and Maastricht. For each case study, a multidisciplinary team was selected (in Rotterdam 2) of spatial designers (architects, urban planners, landscape architects), engineers, and the experts required for underground developments such as geo-technicians.
The Impact of the Pandemic to Street Life, Urban Culture and Beyond.
Maurice Harteveld, co-host and moderator of the roundtable discussion with speakers from the Netherlands, from Greece, from France, and from the United States.
We have seen a growing number of people have been hospitalised per day, and people passed away. Both followed the bell curve. Every country faced critical moments when hospitalised totals stressed the capacity of medical care. The uncertainty among the populations grew in that period. Particularly, the impact of the pandemic to street life became visible in those days. Cities locked down, people stayed at home, and shifts in urban culture became visible. Can we place those changes in a longer perspective? Looking back to what happened before, and forecasting what most likely happens beyond 2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Imagine: You are asked to draw a port city from memory. What would you put on paper? Do you think of harbours? Water, docks, cargo, moving loads, and ships? If your drawing shows these elements, don’t be surprised. Sixty-five graduate students also took on the challenge. In answering: “draw the port city of Rotterdam by mind”, the drawings of the participants (fig.1) displayed exactly the above features. Of course, this makes sense. A port just happens to be a place on the water in which ships shelter and dock to (un)load cargo and/or passengers. A harbour is a sheltered place too, and in its nautical meaning, it is a near-synonym for sheltered water, in which ships may dock, especially again for (un)loading. So, all the above linguistic lemmas are there and all these are connected to imaginable objects.
Port cities are a particular type of territory and are often long-standing examples of resilience, bringing opportunities, wealth, and innovation to their nations and their citizens. They have developed at the crossroads of international trade and commerce and the intersection of sea and land. Flows of people through trade and migration have played a key role in their spatial, social and cultural development. Their strong local identities share legacies of diversity and cosmopolitanism, but also of colonialism and segregation. The Qingjing Mosque in Quanzhou, Fujian speaks of the exchange between Arabia and China along the maritime silk road. Hanseatic cities stand as an example of far-flung networks with districts for foreign traders—think of the German merchants who established Bryggen, the German dock, in Bergen, now a UNESCO world heritage site.
Port cities are places that accommodate change —and often thrive as a result. As logistical patterns, economic organization, spatial structures and technological devices have evolved, port cities have consistently provided spaces and institutions to host changing social, cultural and demographic needs and have built their local identities around them. Chinatowns, for example, are emblematic of many port cities worldwide. For many centuries, traders and merchants depended on the interaction between local traders and short- and long-term migrants of all classes. To maintain and facilitate shipping, trade or organizing defenses, traders, workers, and citizens have come together and developed long-term strategies and inclusive governance systems. Built around trade, these shared practices have not always benefitted everyone. Colonial port cities hosted the buying and selling of enslaved people as well as minerals, animals and opium. Many workers lived in squalid conditions in walking distance to the port. The degree of tolerance and inclusion depended on the extent of ethnic diversity overall, the degree of spatial and social segregation in the city, and the economic structure of the urban economy.
Waterfronts have been and in some (smaller) cities still are contact zones of people from diverse backgrounds: public spaces bring together dockworkers, displaced people, casual labourers, and trans-migrants waiting to board ships for overseas travel. However, waterfronts have been looked upon as places of otherness in need of social reform even at the turn of the twentieth century. Since the 1960s, container districts and offshore ports further increased the separation between ports and cities. Following containerization, waterfront regeneration has become a worldwide tool to overcome the range of social, cultural and public health issues associated with the nineteenth century waterfront. Urban renewal and gentrification have been central to many of these programs that took off beginning in the 1980s in most European port cities. Rebranding has been an essential part of bringing new capital and new people into neighbourhoods next to former dock areas, which normally would not have been of interest to private investors. In select cases—such as HafenCity Hamburg—planners and politicians have consciously opted for spatial and social inclusion.
Rotterdam as a port city reflects the long-term history of migration traditionally related to shipping and trade in all aspects, but since the 1970s the working port is no longer a decisive pull factor. Other international, national and local factors have changed the city’s population characteristics. The past decades have seen increasing diversity in ethnic groups and religions but also increased variation in socio-economic statuses among inhabitants with a migration background. Rotterdam hosts so many ‘minority’ migrants that it is now considered a superdiverse city where 52%, and in some districts, almost 70% of the population have a migrant background.
Rotterdam’s hyperdiversity—a term meant to acknowledge the multiple causes of diversity—has challenged existing local integration policies. The city government’s development strategy focusses on a balanced composition of the population and regeneration programs in combination with new residential, sustainable urban planning and branding strategies aim to assure integration. Like other cities with major waterfront revitalization activities, Rotterdam is witnessing a gap between cosmopolitan aspirations boosted by international capital and symbolic waterfront architecture and the existing reality of a hyperdiverse population inhabiting the urban fabric. Redevelopment projects of former waterfront port areas, such as Lloyd Quarter, RDM and M4H stand as examples. Yet, like other cities with major waterfront revitalization activities, the question arises: to what extent is Rotterdam widening the gap between diverse neighbourhoods and gentrified port-city redevelopment projects? There is a potential risk of economic segregation as authorities, educational and cultural institutions aspire to build the post-industrial economy on the port industrial foundations of the past, neglecting those areas where a linkage to the maritime mindset of Rotterdam as a port city is hardly felt let, alone visible.
Rotterdam needs to find ways to come to terms with political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of its port city. That is one of the major challenges for Rotterdam in becoming an inclusive city. What is needed to connect Rotterdam’s migration narrative (and that of other port cities) to further the inclusive city ambition, using its present hyperdiversity, and acknowledging the value of diversity for creativity, innovation and making the next port city? Exploring the key values of an inclusive post-industrial, hyperdiverse port city drives the research agenda of our multidisciplinary LDE PortCityFutures program.
The Leiden-Delft-Erasmus PortCityFutures program employs multi-disciplinary methods and longitudinal perspectives to understand and design political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of spatial use in port city regions. It explores how the flows of goods and people generated by port activities intersect with the dynamics of the natural environment, hydraulic engineering, spatial planning, urban design, architecture, and heritage. It examines the spatial impact of competing interests among port-related and urban spatial development needs and timelines. It explores creative solutions and design measures to problems and considers their implications for the future use of limited space that will allow port, city, and region to thrive.
“After 9 months of researching, designing and discussing new ways of making a city, the results of the design research De Stad van de Toekomst (The City of the Future) have been presented in a festive closing event on 30 November. Over the course of 2018, design teams, municipalities and a large network of involved experts worked on integrated designs for five test locations of 1 × 1 km in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, and Eindhoven. The central question: How can the major transitions that we stand for as a society help to create attractive and future-proof urban environments?” (source)
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