As the world battles with the coronavirus outbreak, social distancing, physical distancing, isolation, quarantine, masks, shields, etc. are the words at the tip of our tongues. With close to 1.380 billion (138 crores) people by 2020 in India, it has always been difficult to manage the crowd. With crowded places comes the safety and security of people and their belongings from theft, damage, or losing it.

History has also seen fashion playing an important role in physical distancing. For example in the mid-19th century, in the Victorian-era ‘crinoline’, a large voluminous skirt became fashionable to become a barrier between unwanted attention from genders, classes, and races and for personal safety. Also acting efficiently to maintain distance from hazards from people with smallpox and cholera. Large hats and pins also once provided safety in the absence of crinoline. However, we are in the 21st century struggling with population rise, scarcity of land and resources, and a lot more, wearing crinoline is not the idea anymore and modern problems need modern solutions.

The coronavirus brought the concept of physical distancing leading to breathable space between people. An invisible personal bubble is formed by each individual to enable that distance which in return has led to a rise in safety for women in public spaces. Physical distancing reduces people to brush passing, getting hit by backpacks, uncomfortable traveling scenarios, physical harassment, thefts, and better-disciplined surroundings.

Will social distancing lead to safe public spaces after pandemic in India - Sheet1
Individuals with their imaginary personal space ©www.gettyimages.in
Will social distancing lead to safe public spaces after pandemic in India - Sheet2
Merging the personal spaces by reducing the distance ©www.gettyimages.in

The following are a few examples of places visited regularly by thousands of people. Life before and after physical distancing measures in place!

1. Parks

Parks are the most visited recreational spaces in India because of its proximity, accessibility, and affordability to all people. People with kids playing on the same equipment, sharing seating and benches, amenities give rise to higher safety measures. Various countries managed to contain the virus open parks with newer safer social distancing measures.

BEFORE

Will social distancing lead to safe public spaces after pandemic in India - Sheet3
One of the parks in Delhi before COVID-19 ©www.nytimes.com

AFTER

Will social distancing lead to safe public spaces after pandemic in India - Sheet4

Park in Delhi with people with masks, shields and physically distant to each other ©www.reuters.com

a. Brooklyn’s Domino Park, New York

City authorities have marked white circles on the grass to main social distancing and allow sun basking and outdoor activities. Strategic tactical urbanism enabling the safety of their residents.

Aerial view of people occupying the circled spaces in the park ©www.designboom.com
View of the park adjacent to the waterfront ©www.designboom.com

2. Railway and metro stations

Public railways being the most popular mode of transport sees thousands of commuters each day. The wagons are filled with people pushing and making space for each other with absolutely no breathing space and physical distancing an option taken for a laugh. However, with many people working from home and travel restrictions possibilities of physical distancing were seen.

BEFORE

Dadar Railway station, Mumbai before COVID-19 ©www.mumbaimylove.com
Daily commuters toward the railway station from outside markets ©www.dnaindia.com

AFTER

People in queues and physically distant to board the train ©www.deccanherald.com
Commuters on the left and passengers sitting waiting for an immediate train ©www.zeenews.india.com
Passengers seated waiting for the train ©www.hindustantimes.com

3. Religious Places

Diversity with various religious practices led to regular worshippers and tourists visiting religious places. People in India stand in hours and hours-long queues for a glimpse of their gods. Keeping up people’s hopes, faith, and prayers safety measures with barricades, markings, and waiting areas led to safer surroundings.

BEFORE

Worshippers in Golden Temple, Amritsar ©www.simplynomadiclife.com
The consecration of Sri Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur ©www.thehindu.com
Jama Masjid, Delhi during Friday prayers ©www.theprint.in

AFTER

Worshippers in Golden temple seating physically distant to each other ©www.hindustantimes.com
People waiting for their turn during for worship in a temple ©www.deccanherald.com
Jama Masjid Friday prayers during pandemic ©www.frontline.thehindu.com

The above example portrays physical distancing is possible and beneficial. Inculcating the habits and enforcement of the same possibly can lead to greater public safety in all the cities in India. The world has responded the same way with some tactical urbanism solutions to few permanent infrastructural and policy modifications.

The following are a few patterns and measures observed in architecture and city planning.

  1. New homes moving to suburban and rural areas to move out of the city and away from crowded places.

-Migrants and their families flock back to their hometowns and intend to continue their life and work there due to a lack of labor opportunities now in urban areas. Families with weekend homes and second homes preferred to stay away and secluded to stay safe from affected city areas adding to the spur in the sub-urban population.

  1. Modifying city planning to accommodate more cyclist and pedestrian movement as people choose to stay away from public transport for a while.

-Few cities have seen a rising number of cyclists, two-wheelers, and private transport as a mode of transportation due to fear of traveling in metros and trains in compact and tight situations. Hence, planning bike and pedestrian lanes will encourage more and more people to use cycles and walk the new medium of transport instead of private which may worsen climate change.

  1. Architect, engineers, and public health experts providing designed guidelines for post-COVID-19 measure and infrastructure of market, streets, restaurants, schools, offices, etc.

-Competitions are held all over the world for innovative methods and techniques to survive the pandemic and to be prepared for the next one. Physically distant market setups and restaurant layouts to encourage the utmost safety for the users. The idea of alternate class schools with fewer students and seating restrictions have put the flexibility and playfulness of children’s childhood at stake. Offices opting for more than 50% of their staff on work from home and the rest on strict working hours to discourage large gatherings and congregations as much as possible which has positively led to low power and infrastructural energy consumption and reduction in pollution.

  1. Creating open and green pockets within the city to encourage a short stroll, play areas, and fitness areas.

-Cities and newer construction encourage green buffers with gardens, playing, and relaxing areas to keep the residents happy and provide spaces for people’s wellbeing. The visual or physical connection to nature helps to calm the mind and encourages small strolls and investment of time on health and happiness peeking away anxiety and sickness.

  1. Signage encourages social distancing, wearing masks, and sanitizing at every interval throughout the day.

-It’s not a few but all around the world who are affected and hence spreading awareness is our key role. Signage has spread in all mediums and languages to make people aware and alert of the good and bad around them.

Author

RuchiKumbhani is currently a final year B. Arch student at PVP College of Architecture, Pune. She is a curious mind & travel enthusiast. With few days of intense binge indoors to days of cycling outdoor, she loves to observeinterrelationship of different settings/spaces and penning her thoughts over it.

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