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Observations on Death and Life of Public Space in Australia during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract

“Do not touch me, touch and deal with other people in the spirit of love” is stated upfront in Zizek (2020) recent reflection on the unprecedented global pandemic that has a firm grip on our societies. The quote makes two strong points that highlight the essence of this commentary. First, it implies that during the global COVID19 pandemic each and every one of use is forced to deal with their on human spirit embodied through the ontological state of existence and apply mindfulness and accountability for their actions in their everyday life routines. Second, public life in cities is different. Quickly the ‘new normal’ dictates our everyday life routines while systemic spatial issues being amplified, while social distancing measures are in place and restriction on social encounter being enforced. We present an argument that is based on direct observations of lockdown conditions during the first wave in 2020 in the Australian context. Careful framing around the concepts of ‘urban loveability’ and public space allows us to critically examine the synergy between aspects of the human spirit that celebrate and unite us. Whether the ‘new normal’ embraces death or life is evident if we pay attention to detailed traces of dynamic and intangible elements in public spaces. They remind us what makes us human and holding the possibility to realise a new ontological state of existence.

 

Published:
Pages:173 to 182
Section: Society
How to Cite
Mews, G. and Muminovic, M. (2020) “Observations on Death and Life of Public Space in Australia during the COVID-19 Pandemic”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(3), pp. 173-182. doi: https://doi.org/10.32891/jps.v5i3.1366.

Author Biographies

Queensland University of Technology
Australia Australia

Adding quality to urban environments- Dr. Gregor (Greg) H. Mews joined the School of Design at Queensland University of Technology as a Lecturer in Landscape Architecture.
His philosophy is based on social constructivism researching the nexus of human condition in relation to spatial practice, sustainable and healthy development with humanities collective bio-history in mind. Greg uses a range of mixed- research methods to make a difference in the real world internationally. Growing up in Germany, living in the US and working as an artist, urban planner and design practitioner in Colombia, Kazakhstan, Germany, Netherlands and in Australia defined and shaped his thinking. Greg obtained his urban and regional planning degrees at the Technical University of Berlin, Germany, and Environmental Design degree from the University of Canberra, Australia.
Greg holds an honorary adjunct position at the Health Research Institute at the University of Canberra and is on the Advisory Board for Research into Practice of The Journal for Public Space. He lectures regularly at Technical University of Berlin (Germany), Yale University (USA), University of Canberra (Australia), University of Kassel (Germany) and University of NSW (Australia). Greg has received several high profile research scholarships, nine work-related awards and completed his PhD on the production of space and play.
Greg is strong international voice for human-centrered urban design transcending disciplinary boundaries - in order to enable meaningful change, he founded in 2013 the international “Think and Do” Tank Urban Synergies Group (USG) that is committed to shaping healthy communities worldwide. Prior this calling, he was the Head of Project Development and Corporate Social Responsibility at the global segment market leader in sustainable play space design SIK- Holzgestaltungs GmbH based in Germany. While leading the design and innovation agenda, he advised key clients such as Playmobile Funpark and many capital cities internationally on holistic play space designs.
In the role of the Director of USG, Greg provides strategic policy advice, training and knowledge transfer to clients in international context. He is an active member of the Steering Committee at UN-Habitats World Urban Campaign. Under the conceptual approach of “Right to the City” he advocated for better health and well-being outcomes at the United Nations Habitat III conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development held in Quito (Ecuador) in 2016.

Dr Milica Muminovic is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Design, Architecture at the University of Canberra.  Dr Muminovic received her Ph.D. from Keio University, Japan in 2013. Prior to joining the University of Canberra, Dr Muminovic was lecturer at State University of Novi Pazar in Serbia (2008-2010), Teaching Assistant at Keio University, Japan (2010-2013) and Research Assistant at the Global COE Program, High-Level Global Cooperation for Leading-Edge Platform on Access Spaces at Keio University, Japan (2011-2012).  Dr Muminovic was Course Co-convenor: Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, University of Canberra (2014-2015).
Specializing in architectural and urban design, place identity and sustainable architecture, Dr Muminovic’s research focuses on capturing and understanding the complex aspects of built environment with particular focus on transformations which maintain place identities. Taking a case study approach, coupled with lived experience from Europe to South East Asia, with particular focus on  Japan, interdisciplinary collaboration, Dr Muminovic aims to understand degrees and types of change, ways of mapping, subjective and objective, capturing slippery aspects of built environment. In 2012, she was part of the team that won the first prize at the International Design Competition for the ‘Next generation sustainable house’ in Taiki-cho, Hokkaido, Japan which was built and continues to serve as the platform for research on sustainable materials and bioclimatic design in extreme climates. Currently Dr Muminovic is framing a research on qualitative mapping of public spaces in Canberra and testing creative subjective aspects as a tool to understanding the space. 

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