Last spring, the situation of lockdown derived from the pandemic generated by the SARS-CoV-2 and the process of return by phases to the so-called “new normality” clearly affected life in cities, which has generated various reflections on how to manage issues as relevant as mobility and public transport, the use of urban spaces and public buildings, etc. From the disturbing contemplation of empty cities, we moved on to the striking images of the simultaneous and intense flow of people in streets, promenades, and parks at certain times of the day.
Beyond all of this and the short-term debate, and being still immersed in a worrying situation whose future we do not know, it seems appropriate to consider the effects of everything that is happening in cities in the medium and long term, to ask ourselves whether we are facing a disruptive event that will determine changes, deep or not, in urban spaces and their dynamics. For some years now, urban planning has begun to reflect on the habitability of cities, in an evolution of the sustainable paradigm marked by two focuses: the resilience of cities in the face of situations of risk or disaster and their potential as generators of well-being, incorporating a broad vision of urban health. However, the echo of the nineteenth century hygienism, which was a determining factor in the construction of modern urbanism, reappears with the pandemic and recalls the question of the healthy city, its structural conditions, form, function, and governance.
Raising this subject for the issue 25 of the journal Ciudades, whose publication is scheduled in 2022, has the advantage of the perspective that time will provide, in the hope that the tragedy in which we are immersed today has been overcome, while at the same time progress will have been made in reflection and analysis: What can urban planning learn from this experience? What measures need to be taken urgently to promote an urban ecosystem that is more responsible for the health of its citizens, but also for the environment, in the short and long term? Are lifestyles, mobility and land use, housing, work and leisure spaces going to be modified? Is it possible to seek a more convincing and effective alliance between cities and nature, one that is less rhetorical? Is the current environmental focus on the urban sufficient? Have factors such as energy efficiency been overestimated, is there a prior problem of metabolism (physical and social) and urban design? Which reflections emerge on the administration of urban density and the design of public spaces? Is there a scientific and technological response that minimises the need for change in urbanisation models? Who are the new technologies deployed in cities for?
These are just some of the questions that arise around a reality, health, which is becoming both an event and a strategic issue, which is seen as an accelerator of change and which is going to provoke both a broad debate and an increase in urban knowledge. Analysing in depth, from a historical perspective, the relationship between urban planning and health would be the first step towards understanding what the discipline itself already knows and what can be done in this new context of uncertainty. It is also important to promote reflections that broaden the discussion on urban sustainability and resilience and penetrate into complex issues, such as the relationship between time and the city, by rethinking the patterns of use of space (“La ville du quart d’heure”, etc. ); or in the physical structure that supports each mode of transport and its integration, in the prioritisation of pedestrians, and, in general, in greater attention to the human scale of the urban and the quality of the city as a habitat, always through integrated strategies that seek its inclusive and systematic regeneration. The journal Ciudades should participate in all of this.
Coordinator of the monographic section:
Juan Luis de las Rivas Sanz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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