The adaptive capacity of public space under COVID‐19: Exploring urban design interventions through a sociotechnical systems approach

COVID‐19 had a dramatic impact on public spaces. New approaches to urban design are needed and in this work we provide insights to reestablish access to public spaces while ensuring they remain available under all conditions.

Full text is available here and the abstract is below

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the way in which the community interacts within public spaces. Consequently, the design of these urban environments requires new approaches. It is our view that Human Factors and Ergonomics approaches can be used to provide these insights. This article explores the opportunities for making public spaces safer and more accessible for community use under pandemic conditions. The study utilizes a sociotechnical systems model of an archetype public space, developed pre‐COVID‐19, to explore the infrastructure and activities that are impacted by the introduction of the virus to the public space system. The aim was to identify those elements of the system that are completely unavailable under pandemic conditions, those elements that become limited in use, and those which remained unaffected by the presence of the virus. The findings show that under pandemic conditions pre‐COVID‐19 public spaces were surprisingly resilient with proportionally few elements within the model completely unavailable. They also demonstrate that overall, the public spaces system, while still operating, is significantly constrained in achieving and optimizing community and individual health and well‐being. The insertion of five (5) urban design interventions within the system model presented unique insights into the possibilities for optimizing adaptive capacity. These interventions revealed design opportunities across several levels of the systems model. Such insights are argued to assist in not only re‐establishing community access under pandemic conditions but also more inclusive access to a broader range of the community under all conditions.

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