How should we approach placemaking after the Covid-19 crisis?

May 1, 2020

When the former Chinese premier Zhou Enlai in 1971 was asked to comment on the impact of the French Revolution he is famously quoted as saying “too early to tell” - arguments continue as to which Revolution he was really referring to. It is too early to tell what the lasting impacts of the Covid-19 crisis will be on our society but it is likely to have as lasting an impact as the French Revolution of 1789. What we do know is that this is the latest pandemic in an historic pattern the difference being that globalisation has increased the range and speed at which a virus can spread. It is likely to happen again. That in turn has led policy makers to adopt a response of “lockdown” and containment to allow health services to prepare and vaccinations developed, it is a response that is likely to be repeated for future pandemics.

That policy of lockdown has been introduced into a society reliant on “just-in-time” supply chains and which in recent years has forced people into smaller and smaller units of accommodation which have sacrificed garden space and genuine sustainability in a drive to meet numbers. To take but one anecdotal example the closure of public spaces for exercise (and just an opportunity to escape the confines of a small house or flat) if this goes on for several months will likely leave a lasting psychological impact – a desire that next time we will have better and more space be it public paths or private gardens, that local communities can be more resilient and less dependent on food reliant on massive supply chains.

While we can’t offer solutions to the Covid-19 crisis we can suggest a new approach to planning our communities, one based on a patient approach that prioritises genuine sustainability and homes over “residential units” and short term profits. ADAM Architecture and Farrer & Co have commissioned a report by Jack Sallabank of the Future Places Studio on this very topic, titled Placemaking: a Patient Approach to Creating Communities.

The UK’s housing crisis is about more than just supply and demand. In a world that is evolving fast, it is also about the need for homes that reflect a changing society. This report explores how adopting a patient approach to placemaking can:

- create beautiful places for people to live
- deliver a higher volume of affordable homes
- benefit the local economy
- benefit the public purse
- be positive for the environment
- generate a higher return on investment

Download a pdf copy of the report here

By Charles Anderson, Partner at Farrer & Co and Hugh Petter, Director at ADAM Architecture, May 2020