After the global corona pandemic that spread throughout the globe, new terms appeared that demonstrate what is called the ‘new normal,’ that will affect the current lifestyle behavior starting from the various indoor spaces and methods of seating, to the outdoor urban spaces and means of moving from one space to another. This ‘new normal’ is governed by the ‘social’ or currently the term is moving more toward ‘physical’ distancing and hygiene behaviors that should be followed.
This paper raises a new argument regarding the impact of this new pandemic: there is no long term for the ‘new normal’, and the procedures related to spatial organization and social distancing will vanish after a very short period of time when spatial behavior reverts to its ‘old typical normal’ ways of living. The paper’s hypothesis is based on an analysis of previous pandemic situations that countries and the globe have faced and their impact on outdoor urban social behavior, in addition to understanding the role of density in spreading or containing the virus.
As an assumption, two parameters prevent the emergence of a long-term ‘new normal’ particularly with regard to open outdoor spaces. The reader might assume that the economic factor is the driving force, which is not the case, as discussed in the paper. The first factor is bottom-up, based on individual and collective group cultural and daily behavior as the main driving force. Monitoring cities that have started to return to their normal condition and observing people’s gathering spaces, especially outdoor spaces, shows that people are using the spaces as usual, with minor social or physical distancing. In countries that are enforcing a partial lockdown, still people are gathering and using the spaces as they used to previously. The second factor is a top-bottom, economic-related factor of the general conditions. Counties cannot afford a series of long, full lockdowns, especially developing ones. They cannot afford to force airlines, restaurants, entertainment facilities and other related economic facilities to work at 30-40% of their capacity. The facilities would not survive economically, and nor could they afford huge re-designs. The only affordable method is to change people’s personal hygiene behaviors when using the spaces, which might be temporary if a vaccine is discovered. This method suits, psychologically and economically, the individual, the economy, and the government, although it might not be the most effective path.
As a result, after a few months, I argue that, gradually, the ‘old normal’ will return, as it is the most affordable solution for everyone. This corona pandemic is not the first and will not be the last health problem to arise. However, it is not strong enough to change the above two factors: cultural and economic behaviors. As a result, this paper suggests that there will be no ‘new normal’ and that the urban open spaces will be used as the ‘old normal,’ just as they were prior to covid-19.
New normal, corona pandemic, social distancing, old normal, urban spaces after the pandemic
Architecture | Urban, Community and Regional Planning
"HAS AN URBAN ‘NEW NORMAL’ BECOME NECESSARY FOLLOWING THE CORONA PANDEMIC?,"
Architecture and Planning Journal (APJ): Vol. 26:
2, Article 5.