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Observations on Access and Use of Public Space during COVID-19 in Hong Kong and Taipei

Abstract

This paper compares the conditions and related responses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong and Taipei, two cities which were among the first to be affected by the pandemic after the virus was first discovered in Mainland China. The cases of both cities offer interesting observations due to their earlier experiences with the SARS epidemic, which led to their prompt reaction, and helped to avoid general lockdowns and to keep most public spaces open. Public space, in the later discussion of worldwide pandemic, has been recognized as a crucial urban facility to mediate people’s outdoor activities and secure health and wellbeing issues. The more detailed comparison, however, identifies specific issues particularly in Hong Kong, where, despite the generally low number of infections and fatalities, the severe pre-existing socio-spatial inequalities were further exacerbated and affected vulnerable groups, such as domestic workers, elderly and urban poor. At this early stage, the paper aims to identify which policies have helped most, and which challenges would need to be addressed to improve people’s health and wellbeing and prepare better for future crises, particularly in the aspect of public space. The study of these two highly urbanized and densely populated cities is also relevant for the current debate about the relationship between urban density and pandemics, as both cities demonstrate that through decisive actions and civic responsibility, infection numbers could be kept comparably low.

Published:
Pages:91 to 104
Section: Space
How to Cite
Chen, Y.-F., Cheung, Y. S. and Tieben, H. (2020) “Observations on Access and Use of Public Space during COVID-19 in Hong Kong and Taipei”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(3), pp. 91-104. doi: https://doi.org/10.32891/jps.v5i3.1381.

Author Biographies

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, School of Architecture
Hong Kong Hong Kong

Ying-Fen Chen is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Architecture, Chinese University of Hong Kong. She obtained her Master in Engineering from the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning, National Taiwan University, and a PhD in Architecture from UC Berkeley. She had previously participated in a wide range of urban social justice movements in Taiwan, including the Lesheng Anti-forced Eviction Movement (樂生療養院保存運動)in the early 2010s and advocacy of urban justice in urban renewal policy. Her current research examines the complex relationship between cultural-centered approaches to urban regeneration, cinematic urbanism, and the transformation of identities in the Greater China region.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, School of Architecture
Hong Kong Hong Kong

Cheung Yu Sze (Stephanie) currently serves as Research Assistant at the School of Architecture, Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research interests lie in the relationship between built environment and wellbeing, with a focus on public space. She was the event manager of the "2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic", an international nine-month knowledge exchange initiative, and is currently working on a research on the usage and significance of public space for vulnerable groups in Sham Shui Po (Hong Kong) during the pandemic, under the supervision of Prof. Hendrik Tieben.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, School of Architecture
Hong Kong Hong Kong

Hendrik Tieben is an urban designer, researcher and educator devoted to the creation of healthy and inclusive cities. He is an Associate Professor and Associate Director of the School of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). At CUHK, he also leads the MSc in Urban Design programme. Over the last years, he developed a series of public space and placemaking projects to empower local communities. His projects have been featured in international publications and biennale exhibitions. In his current Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) project Hendrik Tieben focuses on the relationships between urban forms, health and wellbeing. In this context, he initiated with Luisa Bravo, founder of The Journal of Public Space, the online initiative “2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID19 Pandemic”.

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