Debating the Future of Cities, and Urban Density, After the Pandemic

Numerous writers and experts are already examining the question about what happens to ideas about urbanism in a future forever altered by recent events.

3 minute read

March 23, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Los Angeles, California

trekandshoot / Shutterstock

[Updated March 23] Questions about the future are obviously on everyone’s mind as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, shutting down cities and states across the United States after months of warnings about the risk from Asia and Europe, and models of both success and failure in containing the spread of the coronavirus. Confined to the relatively small spaces of homes and apartments, surrounded by immense cities and regions, questions about whether living arrangements and development patterns are resilient and safe enough take on new meaning during a pandemic, and new anxieties.

As news continues to break and the situation continues to change, the media will continue to debate the lessons of the pandemic, including ideas about urbanism. Some of the leading voices in urbanism, planning, and design media are already attempting to reconfigure a vision for the future of cities, now that the coronavirus has revealed so much about the ways we live.

For those who are ready to also ponder these questions, here is a roundup of articles—of varying levels of optimism, speculation, and “newsiness”—on the changes that are already underway in cities, and what we can expect when the pandemic is over.

These kinds of questions serve as context for massive challenges facing communities as the worst effects of the pandemic start to show in hospitals and unemployment numbers over the coming days and weeks, but the connections between the traditional role of planning and the future of planning to the sustainability of public health and prosperity are obvious now, more than ever. Planners will be essential in the hard work of answering questions about the public realm, mobility, social isolation, and local and regional leadership. Now, soon, and for the long-term.

[Please share your ideas about how planning and the future of cities will change as a result of COVID-19 in the comments below, or by sending a pitch to Planetizen, at [email protected].]


James Brasuell

James Brasuell is a writer and editor, producing web, print, and video content on the subjects of planning, urbanism, and mobility. James has managed all editorial content and direction for Planetizen since 2014 and was promoted to editorial director in 2021. After a first career as a class five white water river guide in Trinity County in Northern California, James started his career in Los Angeles as a volunteer at a risk reduction center in Skid Row.

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