What the Future Looked Like Before the Coronavirus

Common Edge surveyed mayors and urban designers for ideas about what the next decade holds in store for cities. There were plenty of challenges in facing the world before the pandemic.

2 minute read

March 18, 2020, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Autonomous Vehicles

Before the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic had shut down cities in the United States, Common Edge surveyed mayors and urban designers for predictions on the next decade of life in cities. The context into which COVID-19 emerged sowed the seeds for the coming economic and public health shock of the pandemic.

All 44 mayors and 45 design leaders surveyed by Common Edge participated in the Mayors’ Institute on City Design last year. "Answers ranged from the practical to the alarmist, from the aspirational to the fantastical," according to the article, which groups responses into a few interrelated themes, such as those listed below:

  1. "The Existential Threats of the Last Decade Will Shift From the Theoretical to the Urgent" – In this case, the theme focused on climate change and affordability, but also focused on questions of privacy in an era of big data and the impact of autonomous vehicles.
  2. "Residents Will Demand That We Do Things Differently" –The rate of change in cities will require responsive and flexible government, according to the answers provided here.
  3. "What’s Old Will Become New Again" – Urban residents will continue to seek authentic experiences, with an orientation to the public realm.
  4. "Cities Will Lead With Landscape as the Era of Single-Objective Infrastructure Ends" – Resilience will require a new, more efficient approach to infrastructure, according to this theme.
  5. "Cities Will Become the Primary Stewards of Social Infrastructure" – This theme predicts that climate change would require cities to lead in maintaining the "connections and glue that bind communities together," but COVID-19 might have moved up the timeline for this prediction.

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