There is Nothing Like a Pandemic to Change the World
In times of peril, people need a feeling of security, camaraderie, and the sense that things will be all right, that “we are in it together.” It is for that reason that thousands of people slept in Tube stations, requisitioned buildings, and damp basements during World War II, and why we take shelter in communal facilities today. It’s not because it is the safest place but because we need the comfort of people around us.
That is what makes this pandemic so difficult. It is a time of fear and uncertainty when our need for reassurance is strong. The timing is equally challenging – that we are confined in springtime, at the end of our seasonal hibernation, seems particularly cruel.
Our efforts to exert a measure of control over our environment lead us to do what we can in our personal space. We are cleaning out cabinets, closets, and junk drawers. We are sprucing up backyards, porches, planters. The parking lots of home improvement stores resemble the Christmas rush as we take on “essential” household repairs.
How will this experience change our demands upon the urban realm when we do emerge from our soft confinement? Will we want more/different spaces for social interaction or improve the ones we have? Will moving the homeless into housing for the duration of the pandemic improve their lives and inspire us to find permanent measures? Will we finally recognize the toll we have placed on the environment and take strides to reduce our destruction of natural resources?
Will this extended period in our houses and apartments alter our conception of the ideal home? Will it be cleaner, greener, have more ventilation and more storage? Will we choose to live in expanded family groups after missing our children or parents in this enforced isolation? We will be changed by this event, in ways that are unimaginable right now but will emerge over the next decade. Let’s use the recovery to build the physical environment we want and a better future for everyone.