Temporary urbanisms as policy alternatives to enhance health and well-being in the post-pandemic city

This 2021 academic article discusses the links between temporary urbanism, health and wellbeing, given the Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted such associations. It puts forwards a policy-agenda for post-pandemic cities across the world, which foregrounds health-led temporary urbanisms. Three types of temporary urbanism are presented - top-down, bottom-up, and hybrid - alongside case study examples linking these to various aspects of health.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

*This resource is about temporary urbanisms. It is not specifically about the High Street, but has been included in response to requests for more studies/information about this topic, as well as linking to the adaptability, liveability, and innovation priorities for High Street vitality and viability*

This academic article (Andres et al., 2021) discusses the links between temporary urbanisms, health and wellbeing, given the Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted such associations in cities around the world. The authors argue that temporary uses and activities could help to ensure the links between urban design, planning and health are further foregrounded in policy-making around places. As the authors explain, the concept 'temporary urbanism’ is commonly interchanged with terms such as 'pop-up’, 'tactical urbanism’, and 'meanwhile uses’, and involves experimenting with temporary solutions to urban problems, creative placemaking to address vacant spaces, and alternative practices and occupations of urban spaces by communities. They highlight how adaptability is central here, and the article introduces three different types of temporary urbanism:

  • Bottom-up temporary urbanism - more unplanned and informal uses and occupations falling outside of formal planning frameworks.
  • Top-down temporary urbanism - embracing contemporary design trends, and embedded in more formal strategies for urban transformation.
  • Hybrid temporary urbanism - often seen in the case of sudden unexpected disruptions in a place, where there is need for rapid adaptation.

Case study examples of the above types of temporary urbanism are next provided, with links drawn to three aspects of health: wellbeing and liveability, everyday coping and access to basic needs, and response to health crises, as summarised below.

Example 1: Top-down temporary urbanism, well-being and liveability

Temporary urbanism used to address derelict sites and buildings can also be used as a tool in encouraging healthier lifestyles and physical activity in the local community. Examples of such top-down initiatives are drawn from London and Sao Paulo. In London, the authors explain how temporary uses were adopted during the King’s Cross St. Pancras redevelopment project, such as temporary gardening initiatives (Skip Garden Project and King’s Cross Pond Club), in addition to community gardening projects in Loughborough Junction (e.g. The Loughborough Farm Project). Whilst, in Sao Paulo, a playground, sports court, and gardening installation are found in the Mungunzá Container Theatre.

Example 2: Bottom-up temporary urbanism, everyday coping and basic needs

Temporary urbanism can also be adopted to enable the local community to cope with the everyday and access basic needs in order to promote positive health outcomes. This can involve temporary infrastructure to provide shelter, off-grid electricity and water, food, and temporary cooking and washing facilities. An example provided by the authors of this type of bottom-up temporary urbanism, is the Hope for Communities aerial water project in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, which involved creating an innovative temporary system for providing water to the local community at an affordable and stable price.

Example 3: Hybrid temporary urbanism and health crises

Temporary urbanism is also often used in times of urban disruption and crisis to protect the health and wellbeing of local communities, as seen during the Covid-19 pandemic. As the authors explain, adaptability of spaces is important to ensure places are resilient, to rapidly respond to crises, and enable community coping. Examples from the Covid-19 pandemic are provided to explain this hybrid type of temporary urbanism, such as empty spaces being converted into temporary hospitals, and public spaces, parks, and street furniture altered to enable social distancing, outdoor dining, and active mobilities (e.g. cycling).

The article concludes by calling for a health-led approach to temporary urbanism, such as social distancing optimisation of buildings, a multifunctional approach to residential units, and more adaptable buildings to respond to crises. The authors ultimately argue that a 'soft and swift’ form of temporary urbanism in our post-pandemic cities is vital to ensure flexibility, adaptability, and changeability in the face of potential future pandemics and other human crises.