2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic

An initiative jointly developed by City Space Architecture and The Chinese University of Hong Kong, School of Architecture
Co-funded by the RGC Fund Project: "Built Environment and Planning for Healthy Cities", School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Curated by Luisa Bravo and Hendrik Tieben
Image by Edwin Hopper on Unsplash.

On 8-13 February 2020 our publisher City Space Architecture participated in the 10th World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi as an exhibitor, and in collaboration with 16 global institutions  promoted the exhibition 'PUBLIC SPACE IS VITAL FOR AN EQUITABLE URBAN FUTURE' - read a full report here.
On April 7, while about 40% of global population was under coronavirus lockdown, we announced our brand new initiative '2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic'.

Description of the initiative
Social distance dictated by COVID-19 health emergency affects access to public space and with it creating a range of impacts on different levels. While global lockdown is destabilizing economy and challenging country leaders, at the human level the pandemic is generating isolation and loneliness, with a significant raise of helplessness and fear. Everyone is asked to stay home and rearrange daily routines and work activities in indoor domestic spaces, looking at the world from behind a window.  
People are dying alone, numbers are increasingly high. Outdoor physical activities are no longer allowed. Many governments seem to lack proper strategies to manage the risk of massive contagion. In the Global South the poor living in informal settlements have scarce access to water, washing hands could be dangerously impossible.
What is the future of public space? How can we face this unprecedented emergency and get prepared to its consequences, in specific regard to health disparity? Public space restrictions will stay in place after recovering from the pandemic?
Is there something we can do now all together?
We, public space scholars and activists, believe that we can build social and health resilience by establishing an open environment for discussion and learning, while taking advantage of technology and virtual platforms that many can currently access for free. As the pandemic moves across different continents and urban conditions, we can share experiences from places where the virus had hit earlier or where recovery will start first.

Program of activities
1. ENGAGEMENT (April 2020 - October 2020): collection of information on a dedicated platform, through surveys and sharing of text, pictures, short videos, local news from different, intergenerational social groups from all geographical areas, regarding the current situation of public space and indoor daily routines from a personal perspective, and its evolution throughout the year.
>>> Survey

2. DISCUSSION (May - September 2020): a series of webinars, taking place every Thursday afternoon on Zoom with global experts to discuss about the current situation and its consequences, by presenting innovative approaches and creative practices, touching different topics related to public health, social interaction and the future of public space.
Webinars are hosted by The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Read the full program of the twenty webinars here
CALL FOR SPEAKERS >>> apply here if you would like to be invited to join our future webinars.
All our webinars have been recorded and are available on the City Space Architecture's Youtube playlist '2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic'
FINAL ONLINE SYMPOSIUM >>> November 6-7 >>>  https://www.publicspace-covid19.com/
3. PUBLICATION (2020): a special issue of 'The Journal of Public Space'. The issue will include articles with perspectives and commentaries from global experts and a portfolio with outcomes of step 1- Engagement, and first and more relevant outcomes of step 2 – Discussion.
This special issue will not be a regular double-blind peer reviewed issue, since we do not have enough time for several rounds of review. But we will work in order to keep the high standards and quality of research papers, engaging leading academic scholars in the editorial review.
Read the special issue here: '2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic', edited by Luisa Bravo and Hendrik Tieben

4. FOLLOW-UP LEARNING (May - November 2020): an online course to rethink public space during and after pandemics. Designing Inclusive and Resilient Communities for the Post-Covid19 Era in Hong Kong and New YorkInternational Urban Design Workshop, 8-13 June 2020. Promoted by The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Parsons The New School (New York), the University of Auckland (New Zealand), City Space Architecture and The Journal of Public Space.
Special event to take place in Bologna, Italy. Urban Visions. Beyond the Ideal City, International Film Festival, 12-15 November 2020 -> postponed to 22-25 April 2021 (online format), promoted by City Space Architecture.
5. LONG TERM LEARNING (2022): an online and free educational program entirely dedicated to public space, the Public Space Academy - www.publicspaceacademy.org, that will include also contents related to risk management and resilience during public health emergencies. The Academy will start in the Fall 2022 as a MOOC, curated by City Space Architecture and supported by the Ove Arup Foundation.
The Public Space Academy was launched during a training event at the 11th World Urban Forum in Katowice, on 28 June 2022, read more info here.

The '2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic' initiative is developed in partnership with (alphabetical order):

A Cidade Precisa de Você, Brazil
Centre for the Future of Places, KTH Royal Institute of Technology
, Sweden
Cluster for Sustainable Cities, University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom
co+labo radović, Architecture and Urban Design Laboratory, Keio University, Japan
College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, & Orville Simpson Center for Urban Futures, University of Cincinnati, USA
Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization
Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, The British University in Egypt (BUE), Egypt
Department of Architecture, University of Thessaly, Greece
Department of International Urbanism, University of Stuttgart, Germany
ETSAB Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), Spain
I-AUD, Meiji University, Japan
Integrated Urbanism & Sustainable Design (IUSD), Cairo Lab, Ain Shams University, Egypt
Observatorio Ciudadano por el Derecho a la Ciudad y Espacios Públicos de Guayaquil, Ecuador

Public Space Research Group
, Center for Human Environments at the Graduate Center of City University of New York, USA
QUT Design Lab, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Research LAB for Urban Settlements and Landscapes, Graduate Institute of Building and Planning, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
RMIT University, School of Art, CAST - Contemporary Art and Social Transformation Research Group, Australia
Urban @ Parsons, The New School, USA
Urban Commons Lab, University of Washington, USA
Urban Design | Public Space, Department of Urbanism, Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), The Netherlands
Urban Relational Informatics Lab, The University of Auckland, New Zealand
Urban Synergies Group, Australia

and in collaboration with (alphabetical order):

Lance Jay Brown, Davisi Boontharm, Josefine Fokdal, Tigran Haas, Maurice Harteveld, Mona Helmy, Fiona Hillary, Jeff Hou, Kevin Hsu, Timothy Jachna, Min Jay Kang, Merham M. Keleg, Astrid Ley, Setha Low, Michael Mehaffy, Alessandro Melis, Gregor H. Mews, Fabiano Micocci, Maggie McCormick, Manfredo Manfredini, Miquel Marti Casanovas, Vikas Mehta, Miodrag Mitrasinovic, Estanislau Roca, Luis Alfonso Saltos Espinoza, Laura Sobral, Darko Radović, Vaso Trova, Charles R. Wolfe.


Do you want to join our initiative as a Public Space Advisor?
City Space Architecture is interestd to engage academic scholars, professionals, designers, activists, artists, policy makers, city managers and community leaders with a specific background in public space, from multiple topics and perspectives. Read the CALL FOR ADVISORS ON PUBLIC SPACE >>> submit your application here.

Do you want to join our initiative as a University/research institution?
Please send us an email at PublicSpace-COVID19@cityspacearchitecture.org.

Do you want to follow our initiative?
Please subscribe at this link: http://eepurl.com/gcxcg5
About the curators

Luisa Bravo

Luisa Bravo is a global academic scholar and educator, passionate public space activist, and social entrepreneur. She has more than 15-years experience in the professional field as urban planner and designer with a specific focus on public space. After completing her PhD in Italy (2008), she has taught, researched and lectured in Europe, the United States, Middle East, Asia and Australia. She is currently Adjunct Professor in Urban Design at the University of Florence in Italy. With her non-profit organization City Space Architecture, that she founded in 2013, Luisa organized and curated several international conferences, seminars, workshops and exhibitions, aimed at promoting public space culture. Under her leadership, City Space Architecture became partner of UN-Habitat's Global Public Space Programme and started a cooperation for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, also through participation in major UN events, such as the 9th World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur (2018) with the exhibition 'We the People, We the Public Space' and the 10th World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi (2020) with the exhibition 'Public Space is Vital for an Equitable Urban Future', both promoted in collaboration with The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Luisa is currently curating City Space Architecture's activities as partner organization of 'A-Place. Linking places through networked artistic practices', a project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. Luisa is the Founder, Editor in Chief and Journal Manager of 'The Journal of Public Space', the first-ever, academic, interdisciplinary, open access journal entirely dedicated to public space, that she established through City Space Architecture in partnership with UN-Habitat. The first issue of the journal was launched at Habitat III, the United Nations conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, in Quito (2016). Luisa’s lecture ‘Stand up for Public Space!’ has been included in the UN-Habitat Global Urban Lectures series (2017). 


Hendrik Tieben

Hendrik Tieben is an urban designer, researcher and educator devoted to the creation of more inclusive, liveable and healthy cities. He is an Associate Professor and Associate Director of the School of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). Over the last years, he developed a series of public space and placemaking projects which have found international recognition. He collaborated with The Journal of Public Space since its launch in 2016 at the Habitat III Conference in Quito and contributed to the journal, as author and guest editor of the 2019 issue “Public Space in the Entrepreneurial City” in 2019 (with Maurice Harteveld). At CUHK, Hendrik co-organized three Urban Thinkers Campus events to help implementing UN-Habitat’s New Urban Agenda and push for a more inclusive approach to planning. In his current World Universities Network project Hendrik focuses on the relationships between urban forms, health and wellbeing. In this context, he investigates people’s experience with the limited access to public space in the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. He mainly focuses on Hong Kong and Taiwan, two places which experienced the SARS epidemic in 2003, and, in different ways, developed early strategies to cope with the current health emergency.