“For the past decades, those looking at the intersections of planning, design, and public health have focused less on infectious diseases and more on chronic disease, hazards and disasters, and the vulnerable. The current pandemic brings the question of designing for infectious diseases back to the forefront and raises important questions for future research and practice.” -(Ann Forsyth,2020)
The pandemics have a long sense of history linked to how it used to influence city planning and its architecture by making them evolve at the same time. Through the historical layers of various era’s, the famous pandemic like Bubonic Plague of 14th century, which wiped out the one-third of Europe’s population, did inspire the various improvements in the urban fabric of the region. The Marseilles plague of 1720, the cholera pandemic of 1820, and the Spanish flu of 1920 also, did directs the forced implementation of the pandemic planning practices, water, and waste management system for the post-pandemic remakes, etc.
The pandemics, in their long-term influences, reflect out the city’s shortcomings to a greater extent. Just like what the COVID-19 pandemic will have or already have reflected. Re-thinking of the existing transit planning and designing methods could ensure the long-term key for the sustenance and survival in the world disposed to the pandemic.
The key issues in mapping out the outbreak of a pandemic, arouse a way to various doubts on the existing urban fabric-
With home to various informal or formal settlements, how can a proper density be managed? How can the different areas, not only be quarantines but also be provided with necessities for the sustenance? How could one travel to reach out to their amenities needed in the period of a pandemic? How could people be earning their living without having a safe way to works? How the city, should be designed considering the poor? How much the area of the city should be left unbuilt to get adapted to the critical needs of the needed functions? etc.
Consequently, what the architects need is to re-design and re-think the existing infrastructure of the transit and the city designing parameters with certain planning strategies that would let the city be equipped to respond to the pandemics, in contended manner.
The initial ideas of such considerations could be, as discussed below-
1. Mobility Planning
For the pandemic-prone areas, the strategic planning of urban transit is what does serve the backbone of emergency mobility. The planning requires certain considerations to keep mobility as efficient as before.
The crowded conditions on the public transportation network could become the transmission hotspot if the planning issues are not eradicated beforehand.
The idea is to promote the sustainable transit patterns that would be resilient to future impacts.
The addition of 76 km of temporary cycle lanes along the Bogota’s BRT routes and the use of mobile markers by Berlin are the examples of the same. Encouragement of walking and cycling by widening the sidewalks or providing the low-cost cycle tracks is what could ensure social distancing and low gathering in the shopping or commercial districts.
2. Proper Spatial Land-Use Planning
The pandemic has resulted in the need to question the density in the various developments around the cities prone to it. The idea arose the liability towards not so segregated mixed-use development. The mixed-use development arises the instinct of being in contact with that vulnerable peoples could have accessibility towards the basic need when such a pandemic situation prevails.
The density should be distributed since the denser areas are far more prone to distortion than the areas with low densities. The loose or improper infrastructure often results in social pathologies. The settlements having higher densities in Chennai, India face the same problem since the breakout of COVID-19 pandemic, because of its distance from the city center.
3. Re-Designing Housing Policies
The housing parameters need to be reconstructed to have ensured liveability and comfortable living with the considerations of factors like the efficiency of the resource being used, common water, electrical, waste and energy-related services, building typology, etc. There exists a need to have a considerate amount of green spaces, maintaining the humidity, wind, and temperature standards inside structures. The reduction in the heat load and heat island effect is what the housing parameters need to be considerate about.
Affordable housing must ensure the proper reliable transit connectivity to safeguard the economic and social costs of living.
The initiative of providing the design support to the self-constructed settlements by Dharavi and Shivaji Nagar in Mumbai, and Mangolpuri in New Delhi, is what needed to be forwarded in the other cities too.
4. Designing Flexible Buildings
The needed infrastructure for pandemic planning requires the facilitation of the responsive processes. The idea considers the construction of the buildings which could project its functions, to switched easily into the hospitals or quarantine areas during the prevailing period of the pandemic. The traditionally designed spaces also should include the area for quarantining or health-related supplies storage.