Photo credit unsplash/Timon Studler

The future of cities

Cities have traditionally attracted population growth and economic agglomeration, building on the benefits of density, proximity and connectivity.  At one level, the pandemic has challenged these very drivers of urban growth and vitality; at another, it has brought into sharper focus the underlying structural deficiencies in cities that can determine social exclusion, health and well-being. While population density is seen as toxic by some, others have argued that the efficient distribution of health and public services – in the densest cities in the world like Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul – have helped control the spread of the pandemic. Overcrowding, deprivation and ethnicity have proven more robust predictors of mortality rates than just living close together. Cities have reinvented their open spaces and modes of travel, as lockdown and social distancing have forced us to change everyday urban lifestyles, often in more sustainable ways. Will short-term reactions to the pandemic bring about long-term change in how we shape and inhabit our cities? Will new working patterns suck the vitality out of city centres forever? Can cities be shaped to make cities more resilient to social, economic and environmental shocks?