Urban Reflections Series: Prologue

June 8th 2015: Adam wakes up to a sunny Monday morning; a blessing any Vancouverite appreciates. He does his daily routine of brushing his teeth, showering, having breakfast, and checking the bus schedule. The number 10 is usually a few minutes late, which gives Adam a chance to water his plants right before leaving for work. The walk to the bus stop is exactly 4 minutes. He arrives and stands in line hoping that the bus will not be full. The next bus is in about 10 minutes which means he will miss his 9:00 am meeting. Thankfully, he gets on the bus and makes it to his desk on time.

June 8th, 2020: Adam wakes up to yet another sunny Monday morning; however the gratitude he had 5 years ago is not the same. His daily routine is now far from what it used to be. He still brushes his teeth, showers, has breakfast, but now there is no need to check the bus schedule. In fact, there is actually no need to even wear pants. Adam officially works from home on a daily basis to maintain social distancing regulations and avoid the spread of COVID-19. An immense change in lifestyle and routine gives him a larger window of time to do morning yoga and meditation after watering his plants. He then logs on to the online server to start his workday from his new “office” space; the living room sofa.

The Pandemic Reality Check

Ever since the pandemic hit the world, people’s daily lives have changed drastically. Consequently, getting acclimated to the new “normal” was inevitable. It is thus imperative to question the status quo of urban design, architecture, and urban policy which shapes our cities. Not to mention, the various adaptation techniques employed in response to the pandemic.

It might be counterintuitive to think about a pandemic having any positive outcomes. However, the pandemic has revealed an alternative urban reality which we are, more or less, forced to explore; a reality check. Some cities had a resilient infrastructure in place. One which was able to absorb the new reality comfortably and, in turn, cater for the diverse demographics of city dwellers—be it age, race, mental or physical ability.  These aspects were manifested in the social, economic, and environmental impacts which will be praised or criticized as we go about this series.

Time for an Urban Reflection

Urban Reflections is a series that sheds light on the degree of resilience of cities as revealed by the pandemic in a way that contributes to a constructive dialogue so that social justice prevails in the future of our urban life.

The series aspires to present some concepts and design solutions on how to tackle the future of urban life. Particularly, with the restrictions already loosening in many parts of the world, this critical “urban reflection” is necessary to learn from our experience as we transition to our “new normal”.

Some articles will rethink established definitions—such as neighbourhoods and homes—in light of the lock-down. Others will focus on redesigning standardized city elements, including transit stops and storefronts. While others will be tackling physical and mental health impacts resulting from the shift towards the virtual realm.

If the pandemic has done anything, it has forced us to abandon our comfort zone and explore new alternatives. As the old proverb says: “necessity is the mother of invention”; it is in a time of crisis that we can really approach the deeply rooted problems pertaining to designing our cities. With constant dialogue and effective action comes positive change. This pandemic is the trigger; a trigger to change towards social justice.

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Aya Abdelfatah is a city dweller, an Urban Designer with an Architecture background, and an activist with interest in social equity through design.

Islam (Sam) Ibrahim is the co-author of Urban Reflections. He has a Master of Urban Design from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Architecture Engineering from the American University in Cairo.

Urban Reflections is a series that sheds light on the degree of resilience of cities as revealed by the pandemic in a way that contributes to a constructive dialogue so that social justice prevails in the future of our urban life.

One comment

  1. A very well written piece.
    Kudos to the authors 👏

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