What can be said about Covid-19 that hasn’t been said already? Rather than simply talking and writing about the pandemic we at Gehl want to share the lived experience of it. With the support of Realdania and the City of Copenhagen, we worked with over 80 surveyors in 4 cities in Denmark to observe and understand how our streets and public spaces, our parks and our playgrounds are serving the very unique needs of our communities during this pandemic and in the first reopening phases. The results from both phase 1 and 2 are listed in the reports below, and will soon also be listed both in terms of snapshots of public life, as well as highlights of the collected data.
New! Phase 2 report now available!
The Phase 2 report, "During the reopening phase in Denmark", is now available for download. This report follows up on our research during the initial lockdown, and examines the usage of public spaces during the re-opening of Denmark. What can we learn from the crisis that will make a better urban future for all?
Will things ever go back to the way they were?
Probably not - and nor should they. Major global crises, such as pandemics, economic depressions, and wars shape our societies and the way people experience everyday life. A lack of sun and fresh air (not to mention a tendency for civic protest) of the mid 1800’s catalyzed the wide boulevards and grand parks that still define Paris today. The events of September 11th, 2001 and subsequent urban terror attacks continue to shape the way we travel, access democratic institutions and inhabit civic meeting places. For better or worse, design decisions made in the days and months after crises often continue to impact our lives in the decades that follow. We believe that those design decisions should not only be informed by a broad cross-section of society, but unite around one common goal: to deliver people-first public spaces. This project is a first step in understanding and guiding how the public realm can help us achieve that goal; a foundation for collective action that will allow us thrive beyond one of the most drastic crises in a generation.
The Danish Approach?
The way the Danes and Danish cities handle the COVID-19 pandemic is largely based on trust and civic responsibility. Compared to many other countries that have closed urban spaces or limited outdoor activities, public spaces and public life are a vital part of Denmark’s strategy to collectively care for one another, allowing for physical activity, fresh air, and socializing at a distance. Such an approach has proven a popular strategy - there were more people spending time in the observed public spaces in Copenhagen during the “lock-down” of March and April 2020, than in the fall of 2019 before COVID-19.