How to manage disruptive daily news that impacts our sense of well-being, highlights social disparity, or recalls the fragile balance between health and economy? As forms of therapy, how do we adapt to the unaccustomed extremes of 2020 thus far? Our answers will vary; recently, I have tried to share creative ideas based on experiences while living abroad.
Yesterday, I provided some suggestions on how urban places could heal from simultaneous “social infrastructure crises” spotlighted by the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and harsh reminders of societal injustice. This healing will inevitably involve adaptation and modifications to what we already know. We adapt, and appearance and experience transform.
In cities such as London, diversity, and remnants from other eras define much of the urban landscape. A long and rich history allows continuity expressed, in an oddly comforting way. In the photograph above, a red phone booth blends with a pandemic-based sidewalk retrofit. The colorful icon (actually an artifact no longer used) now shares the limelight with an emergency public health response. Similarly, in the realm of public transport, compulsory face masks will soon blend with the equally iconic double-decker bus.
Many have referenced the power of ruins to inspire both fear and reinvention. Artifacts show past human accomplishments, and capacity to overcome troubled times. As I recently wrote, local monuments to previous plagues, however mournful, evoke our capacity for survival and resilience. Yet the anger and protest resulting from repeated victimization of Blacks and minorities remind us that such resilience may first require privilege and opportunity.
The phone booth and signage above may seem trivial. But this juxtaposition undergirds the new with the familiarity of the old, and have inspired my search for more recent imagery of combined tradition and disruption. Examples include period furniture to frame restaurant take-out windows and bifurcated tube (subway) cars to accomplish social distancing. Slightly more attenuated is the use of conventional sports and other facilities for field hospitals, or transforming the traditional knitting hobbyist to provide pouches for orphaned marsupials.
Likewise, during the pandemic, Zoom and companion videoconferencing applications have reminded how “place” is also existing in virtual spaces. The healing methods I discussed yesterday–communication, education, and public service–will also occur in both traditional places and through the increasingly “disruptive” post-pandemic virtual venue.
In short, it is time to turn angst into action. Anger and a sense of justice can spur creativity. In turn, adaptation and blending will frame the next steps to something new.