Image source: Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, 1942. Photograph: Alamy
Ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our cities into American artist Edward Hopper’s paintings – the deserted cityscapes and isolated lonely figures. Haunting images of empty streets are antithetical to key characteristics of a city - close concentration of people and activities.
It is proximity which bring people together to allow for productive exchanges, durable social structures, effective use of common resources, etc. But same proximity also brings the risk of infectious diseases. Term ‘social distancing’, now part of global vocabulary, is diametrically opposite to the very idea of social life of urban public spaces.
Strangely, the very diseases that take lives also give new life to cities. Some of the most important aspects of our urban consciousness are products of pandemics. Public spaces like broad promenades of Victoria Embankment, London and the modern sanitation systems across Europe would never have materialised without the global cholera outbreaks of 19th century.
Learning from cities’ ability to evolve from such events, this course will focus on visualising scenarios of urban life post COVID-19. Course will introduce urban and architectural lens to understand social life in urban spaces. Using these studies as well as emerging evidences, students will engage with diverse topics like surveillance, densification, community networks, lifestyle, hygiene, environment, etc. shaping public life in cities. Students will be encouraged to reimagine scenarios of new public life around their habitats at various scales (elements, buildings, neighbourhood, city) in thought-provoking and radical ways. Course will use its global participants and constantly unfolding situation of COVID-19 to speculate for more equitable and sustainable future of urban public spaces.