Towards a stronger quality-of-place agenda in the ‘new normal’

The Covid-19 pandemic has further revealed inequalities in access to affordable housing, high quality public realm, and greenspaces, highlighting the importance of these things to create liveable places. This article argues that the ‘quality-of-place agenda’ should be foregrounded in planning and urban design, in order to create more welcoming, inclusive, sustainable, and, ultimately, loveable places for local communities in the ‘new normal’.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

This article focuses on how the Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted inequalities in people’s access to affordable housing, quality public realm, and greenspaces. In doing so, the crisis has also, however, offered opportunities to create more welcoming, inclusive, sustainable, liveable and loveable places in the 'new normal’. As the authors suggest (p.1):

The current COVID-19 epidemic is changing our reality daily and rapidly reshaping the global economic, political and social structures in a manner not seen in a generation or more. Today, we live in a world where ‘normality’ is suspended; where everything is in flux; and where we are free to dream and imagine new possibilities for a much more inclusive, resilient, healthy and sustainable society.

With particular relevance to planning and urban design, the authors argue there needs to be a renewed focus on what they term the 'quality-of-place agenda’, which foregrounds the importance of creating accessible, inviting, and liveable places, in the backdrop of things like gentrification and privatisation of public spaces. Examples are given where places are already adapting in this way during the pandemic - from outdoor dining pods in Amsterdam, to updated cycling infrastructure in Newcastle. The authors conclude by offering several key ways in which places can be transformed for the better in the ‘new normal’:

  1. Ensuring sustainability in everything that is built.
  2. Building resilience into places for future potential crises.
  3. Places should be designed in inclusive and accessible ways.
  4. There needs to be a people-focused planning system; and
  5. Flexible design is important to enable creativity, playfulness, and diversity in uses and users.