We all live in the city of Pandemica.
With apologies to Italo Calvino, it is time to reconsider a current “road closed” image of historic Church Street in Twickenham (retitled Equity Street in Pandemica for just a moment). The setting on display may be symbolic of a return to the urbanist’s walkable street of old. Or in fact, it may signify a difficult future, full of pitched battles between safety and economy, haves, and have-nots.
For Pandemica residents in need of certainty, oracle Richard Florida informs us, here, in an excellent series on the post-pandemic city. Welcome to stylish masks, college towns with fewer people, sidewalks too narrow for inevitable queueing, and more cars amid fears of fellow travelers on the Tube. For avid punters, the Prime Minister has your back, because a tabloid-darling Super-Saturday for reopening is coming soon.
For ruminators like me, read on.
Here are five shades of gray responses (not to be confused with Fifty Shades of Grey) to this interesting, symbolism-filled view of a street barred, or a street reclaimed:
- We just don’t know. Like real estate developers, we seek certainty. Sorry, not possible now. We don’t know what will happen. But, no matter, let’s move on.
- Small businesses deserve their patrons. In the “new” world, a mixture of limited indoor clientele, street vending, and online services will substitute for the conventional shop. Combining these mixed inputs, I think, is quite exciting, even with an ongoing rent obligation for physical space. Landlord flexibility in troubled times is also needed, a digression that I pass over for now.
- Planners, we need you to bend. These are indeed the times for suspended and alternate approaches to planning permissions (land use regulation). For public space oriented placemaking activists, the world is finally your oyster. Bring on the streateries and alfresco but allow for populations for whom you might clutter the landscape (handicapped access, for instance).
- Viva Co-Creation. Likewise, it is time for co-creation, community-led architecture, and the voices of the diverse cultural expertise of residents to be heard and honored. Similar to the small business context, we should welcome mixed inputs via in-person and online meetings, traditional public notice, and all-out experimentation.
- Policy Makers, Think Critically About Public Safety. The dance of policing rolls on (how to manage Seattle’s Capitol Hill Organized Protest Zone amid threats to public safety at night and alleged business disruption, or police crackdowns on street parties in, e.g., Brixton and Manchester). It is a remarkable time in democracies to realign governmental police powers under respective constitutions and laws.
The list above is limited, and corollary images such as a “fork in the road” could prompt even more responses. The “eye on the prize” conclusion is unmistakable nonetheless. In Pandemica, we, of course, need a revived Equity Street, in both social justice and financial terms,
The challenge is to redefine both at the same time.