Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, streetscape in urban design finds increased relevance as cities are reimagined.
Streetscape spaces are markers of a bustling metropolis. They represent public life within a city, say much about its cultural dispensations, and play a visual and functional role as shared public spaces.
But streetscapes have a much more substantial role to play in urban design and planning amidst COVID-19. In the post-COVID era, planners and architects are rethinking how cities are designed, especially those that stand in as financial and cultural hubs.
From cycling lanes and sidewalks, to safe open spaces, the standards for what makes an efficiently run and well-designed city have drastically changed with the pandemic.
STREETSCAPE SPACES AND URBANISATION
In key urban sprawls such as Hong Kong, Paris, Barcelona or Manhattan, streetscape spaces take up a third of overall land, as compared to 15-20% by parks and plazas.
If well-designed, these streetscapes can bring down ambient temperatures, control flooding and light pollution, promote sustainable mobility, provide clean air and water, and co-exist with biodiversity hotspots.
With more than half the global population living in urban areas, urban planners are now contending with making street spaces more flexible, sustainable and adaptable, aiming for wider pedestrian spaces, lesser motor traffic, and increased cycling lanes.
A POST-COVID TAKE ON STREETSCAPE IN URBAN DESIGN
Early into the pandemic, Milan announced its Strade Aperte plan aimed at reducing car use by allocating street space for cycling and walking. This was after motor congestion and air pollution dropped in the city during a nationwide lockdown.
In Paris, a 50-kilometre stretch of roads used by cars were converted to cycling lanes temporarily due to a rise in the number of cyclists in the pandemic. These will be made permanent, according to a recent statement.
Closer to home, Sibyl Design Studio’s ‘The Mamsha of Al-Tahliya Street’ project aims to develop a multi-layered pedestrian system in Jeddah as a response to movement restrictions and social distancing. This is on top of other initiatives, such as a 170-kilometre long eco-friendly and high-speed public transportation system in the planned megacity of NEOM.
In the UAE too, Dubai municipality has been relying on technology to keep its streetscapes safe, using drones to sterilise streets and public spaces.
Ultimately, increasing urbanisation has given way to the need for urban cities that can adapt to evolving local and expat expectations, and a rapidly changing climate landscape. Thoughtful streetscape design that meets these needs will enable a subtle but resilient transformation across mobility and walkability, heritage, technology and sustainability.
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