Friday 16 April 2021
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newtimes - 2 month ago

Post-lockdown era: Rethinking urban life

Lockdown, one of the strongest measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, uniquely brings radical change to our lifestyle. Remote work has modified our relationship with time and space creating new challenges and considerations for the urban planning and design of cities. The negative effects of lockdowns are framed economically, while the United Nations Conventions to Combat Desertification states “foundations for building back better in the wake of Covid-19 will be centred on future land use decisions”.   The quick unprecedented transition to remote work and its likelihood of permanency has increased pressures on necessary infrastructure and enhancing internet access and connectivity. By treating internet access as a public good, planning can introduce more internet hubs and wi-fi zones to public spaces and neighbourhoods bridging the gap of accessibility. The benefits of work location flexibility can be enjoyed by allowing you to work comfortably wherever and whenever while practising social distancing outside of your homes. The nature of the large informal economy across Africa has suffered during the pandemic because people thrive off cultivating and maintaining social networks and collective organisation (markets) to sustain their livelihood. The pandemic has disrupted this ecosystem and reinforced socio-economic vulnerabilities faced by informal workers. Intentionally including this valuable population is necessary for land use planning post-lockdown era and the resiliency of our cities.  As the world works towards urban recovery, the “15-minute cities” concept is a relevant approach to urban design. The concept aims to improve the quality of life. Imagine living where you can get almost everything you need in a maximum of 15 minutes by foot, bike or public transit. This means decentralising services, allowing community-scale healthcare and education, essential retail such as groceries and pharmacies, as well as parks for recreation present in each neighbourhood. A concept that municipalities can tailor to their city’s culture and circumstances while responding to specific local needs such as the informal sector. The 15-minute city approach corresponds with and intensifies the relevance of the updated Kigali City Master Plan to aid in preventing the spread of Covid-19. The solutions expressed is promoting mixed uses by encouraging active ground floors for bustling streets and encouraging flexible use of buildings and public space. For successful implementation, low-income housing cannot be distanced from other neighbourhoods as we are dependant on each other. We are in a period of transition that requires us to be ambitious in transforming our lifestyles while preserving the quality of life. Life with covid-19 has profoundly changed our relationship with each other and our built environment, how can we prioritize citizens health and embrace a new normal by offering a different rhythm of life in the most sustainable way?

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