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Planning Theory & Practice ; 24(1):140-143, 2023.
Article in English | ProQuest Central | ID: covidwho-2316467


The Covid-19 pandemic has left society dazed and confused. Self-evidently momentous, its multifaceted impacts upon the functioning and experience of city living have been swift and deep. This has precipitated a range of laudable research in planning, which, among other foci, has sought to examine how the disruption is amplifying inequities (Cole et al., Citation2020), improving urban environmental quality (Sharifi & Khavarian-Garmsir, Citation2020) and generating enhanced demand for public space (Sepe, Citation2021;Ugolini et al., Citation2020). The pandemic has also heightened interest in re-engaging planning with its roots in public health (Lennon, Citation2020;Scott, Citation2020). Here, an emerging strand of research is exploring how to better proof our cities from the ill-effects of future contagions (Bereitschaft & Scheller, Citation2020;Martínez & Short, Citation2021). Yet, there is another dimension to the pandemic that may have impacts which shake the very foundations of how we think cities could and should evolve. This results from the current great experiment in spatial reorganisation that stretches well beyond the requirement of social distancing. Specifically, never before in a time of peace have so many peoples' lives been so comprehensively decoupled from their places of work for such an extensive period of time. Indeed, while the effects of social distancing are immediately apparent in how we have found new ways to negotiate spaces, it is perhaps remote working that will have the longest impact on our cities. This was alluded to but not elaborated on in a recent superb editorial by Jill Grant in this journal (Grant, Citation2020). Hence, I propose in this short comment piece to extend this line of speculation.For centuries cities have pulled people into their orbit in search of employment, education and new experiences. Conventionally conceived as places of opportunity, cities are seen to thrive where a critical threshold of population and capital spawn dynamic and diverse economies and cultures, in which residents flourish in choice and convenience. Yet despite such lofty descriptions, for most cities it is employment that is the magnet and motor of urban land use that heavily influences where people live, shop and recreate. These two cardinal poles of home and work have long dictated how people flow around and use urban spaces: from school runs to restaurants;from retail to recreation. It is this spatial relationship embedded in the daily patterns of life that helps create and carry communities. But if people are no longer limited by their place or time of work, will it follow that they will choose to lumber themselves with the outsized mortgages, additional expenses and stresses of urban living?