Health of the residents and city shelter in the post pandemic era

Health of the residents and city shelter in the post pandemic era

The pandemic that dramatically changed the daily lives and the work environment across the globe is going through a recovery phase in all metrics. Experts have predicted that the humanity will have daily lives that is different from the period prior to the spread of Covid-19 based on the New Normal (Standard that is newly emerging with the change in the era) phenomenon that resulted from the prolonged spread of the infectious disease, and as such, many cities and citizens started to face a new life.


We felt the need to maintain the social relationship network and the importance of community for exchange while experiencing severance and distancing to suppress the infection for the past two years, and we also recognized the need to construct countermeasures against the virus and public hygiene. Standardized urban life that aimed for a collective life in megacities faced a crisis, and the priority of the value that is aspired by the society and individuals also changed due to the infectious disease. At the current timepoint where we are taking prudent steps to recover our everyday lives, we have to accept a new order in the post-pandemic era and consider the resilience of the society. Thereby, this paper would like to examine the ideal future of a city that pursues the healthy life of citizens from the perspective of psychology, physiology and relationship while looking into the changes of the value of the city as a result of attempts made to return non-daily activities into our daily lives.  

Ideal environment of life and city after the pandemic

(Skyline of Yeouido, Seoul / )


Many people realized the importance of safe means of movement and proximity as remote work, remote school and online services became more generalized, and the concept of physical space and distance was newly established with the conversion of multiple public social activities into individual activities. Therefore, experts of the city planning and health fields are proposing various opinions about whether or not the current picture of the city that is tightly packed with tall buildings will remain to be perceived as the ideal urban environment. 

An urban research theorist of US, Richard Florida, used the example of a change in pattern where the urban region gradually welcomed a boom after the pandemic caused by infectious disease including the Spanish Flu and the plague in the history of humanity to predict that some parts of the megacities will be restructured in line with the need for individual space and density of cities after the cessation of Covid-19. In truth, the perception on job-housing proximity changed as many people across the glove adapted to the new normal that used remote meetings and video conference calls over the past two years, and some of the population in concentrated megacities moved to the outskirts and smaller cities to change the moving pattern that used to be fixed. The research result of Gensler, a construction company in California, supports such a phenomenon. According to an investigation on 10 cities such as New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Austin, Denver, London, Paris, Singapore, Shanghai and Mexico City, of people with jobs that enable remote work, 70% with potential to move desired to move to smaller cities (27%) or outskirts (21%) with a smaller population.


From a different perspective, Rebecca Katz, the director of the Georgetown University Medical Center, mentioned that although many young people went to the city to find new experiences and opportunity, the, continuous spread of the virus and risk of infection caused the attractiveness of the city to drop, and predicted that the value and preferences for the urban environment will change in the future. Moreover, it was emphasized that an ideal city environment of the future would have to have a robust health field and capability to respond to the diseases in the city, and specifically established measures to protect the health of urban population. As such, the post-pandemic city should prioritize the plan on health security such as securing safety within the crowded lifestyle on top of being inclusive and sustainable.

Pandemic, Turning point to a healthy city

Looking back on the history, disease and health-related issues often changed the city to become healthier and more mature. In 1793, Philadelphia, US, suffered a disastrous situation where many citizens in the city passed away due to the yellow fever. At the time, city of Philadelphia undertook an analysis and found the polluted air and garbage in the city to have played a pivotal role in spreading the disease, and the fund for cleaning the sewage was allocated to improve the issues of the city and construct a clean city environment. In the same manner, New York constructed a reservoir to supply clean water to the residents as a response to the threat of Cholera in the 1850s, and Central Park was formed to enhance the physical and emotional health of the citizens to contribute heavily to the advancement of the city while becoming a representative sample of the design for an urban park across the globe.

Based on such cases, some experts predicted that the pandemic will become another opportunity for the advancement of the city, and the cessation of the infectious disease will accelerate the realization of the city that we needed since before, such as clearing up the roads in line with the request of the residents and the community and establishment of more green space. Against this backdrop, for the cities that used to be centered on functional growth to convert into healthy cities that focus on the well-being and safety based on this pandemic, the aspiration and value of the future city should be established based on what the cities have experienced for the past two years.

( Image source: )

Lockdown, quarantine and physical distancing measures that were taken during the outbreak of Covid-19 aggravated the loneliness and concern felt by some of the population, and through the pandemic, many people realized the significance of public places that satisfy the basic need of humanity and social activities. People who were forcefully quarantined experienced urban public spaces while interacting with neighbors using the balcony, front yard and alleyway in front of houses that center on individual residential space, and regardless of location, spotlight was shone on open spaces that allowed convenient access to naturral living environment that was required for socialization of both individuals and groups, along with physical and emotional health. 

( San Francisco North Beach & Washington Square Park /

US Brooklyn Williamsburg Domino Park / )        

In particular, during the pandemic period, urban parks acted as a safe space that guaranteed healthy urban activities from the perspective of health and disease prevention while also playing its original role as a place that provides a space for rest. According to Google’s ‘COVID-19 Community Mobility Report’, the utilization rate of global parks rose steadily as compared to the reference value while distancing measures were being enforced, and in US, the utilization rate of national parks or neighborhood parks located in various parts of cities rose more than prominent parks that are popular amongst tourists. As a result of such changes in the behavior in using parks, Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, US indicated white circular areas to prevent crowding of visitors, and also took measures so that the visitors can take rest while maintaining the 6-feet distancing recommended by global health authorities.

Another noticeable phenomenon is the dramatic increase in global population that used personal transportation means for public health and crowding in cities. Many cities increased the proportion of the sidewalks for pedestrians and bike riders by improving the mobility system across the entire city. In Rotterdam, Netherlands, where bicycles are the major means of transportation, some major roads prevented the entrance of cars for pedestrians after a certain time of the day, and New York, Denver, Portland in addition to Oakland in California, US are operating low-speed roads that limit the entrance of cars so that citizens can be encouraged to walk safety or ride the bicycles safety while keeping a safe distance. In particular, Denver, US, prohibited entrance of cars in certain regions of 8 roads in the city at the beginning of April, 2020, and city transportation authorities said that the citizens are greatly satisfied with being able to breathe in fresh air while walking and riding the bicycles when the pandemic is prevailing. City of Denver predicted the walking and biking population to increase by 2~4 times as compared to the normal level, and the city is continuing this while observing the trend without putting a deadline on the measures that prohibit the entrance of cars.

( Image source: )

Implementation of the low-speed road is also a part of the measure to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emission in terms of the environment of the city. According to the investigation conducted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of US, citizens are using cars even when going to a destination that is only a short distance away that can be reached through light transportation means. Since unnecessary operation of vehicles can induce air pollution caused by the gas that is emitted from cars, if transportation means were to be replaced for short distance transfer, it will be of great help in reducing carbon emission and improving the urban air quality.

As such many cities are seeking ways for citizens to return to daily lives that had been temporarily stopped in a better manner while trying to accept several changes that the pandemic gave rise to. I expect more ideas and initiatives to emerge in the future, but I would like to explore a few cases at the current point that can help us predict the urban lives after the pandemic until sustainability is achieved from the environmental perspective including the satisfaction of the need for open-type public space that we experienced.  

- Park Connector Network of Singapore where the city coexists with nature

Urban parks and greenery were considered to be resources that had positive impact on the health of the residents by providing a pleasant environment and reducing air pollution even before the pandemic. Singapore continuously established greeneries in various parts of the city with a national growth vision to become the city of gardens. Green spaces can be found easily across the entire city in Singapore such as the walls of buildings, veranda and rooftops because it continuously pursued to implement the plan for an eco-friendly city by connecting the proportion of greenery to the metrics for the advancement of the city. In addition, Park Connector was established as a space that can be enjoyed by all citizens as an open space on top of increasing the share of greenery to enhance the accessibility to public space and improve the quality of life for citizens. 

( Image source: )


Singapore’s Park Connector Network is an open network that connects the urban ecosystem by enhancing the access to natural space and connecting major parks and greenery across the entire country through trail path that is more than 300 km. Park Connector made use of the waterside and the roadside to establish the landscape that is more than 2m in width with a path that acts both as a bike path and walkway, and connected various loops with one another so that the user can always reach the park regardless of the path or course that was chosen. Given the characteristic of the city where approximately 1/3 of the city consists of greenery, citizens can enjoy the city landscape, or take walks or jog along the waterside through the 5 courses of Park Connector. 


( Image source: )


( Image source: )

Singapore’s NParks identified that the number of visitors to green spaces such as nature reserves and parks rose dramatically after the pandemic. NParks revealed that since this equates to the demand of the citizens for urban parks, it will further expand Park Connector Network to enhance the well-being of citizens. In particular, Singapore announced a specific plan to have all households be able to reach parks by a less than 10-minute walk, and this is a direction that is in line with the hyper-local lifestyle pattern of residents who had to live within a limited area nearby their residences during the pandemic, and it can also be considered a plan to create a better city for the well-being of citizens after the pandemic.     

- Complex public space that embrace nature; Jewel Changi Airport

Another example of the city greening policy that Singapore is embracing as its utmost priority is the Jewel Changi Airport that is the gateway to the city as well as the hub for connecting flights. Jewel Changi Airport that is thought to be one of the best airports in the world consists of greenery that incorporates the concept of a garden with world’s largest artificial garden and waterfall, and hence, it settled itself as the creative space and tourism infrastructure that embodies the forest and the garden, which are the identities of the city, and it eis being actively utilized as the public space for citizens. 


( ©Jewel Changi Airport Devt )

The world’s tallest artificial indoor waterfall, Rain Vortex, that is located at the center of the airport is managing the air quality by applying the ventilation method that enables the smooth flow of indoor atmosphere and adjusting the temperature and humidity within the airport. Another key space, Forest Valley, is flexibly connecting the urban facility, nature and public space by providing a multi-floor terrace resting space with a line of various types of trees, and Canopy Park that is located at the top floor is portraying a lush, green entertainment space that encompasses the maze garden and play areas.

(Rain Vortex and Forest Valley(Left), Canopy Park(Right) /  ©Jewel Changi Airport Devt )

Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport that combines the nature and infrastructure of city is frequently used not only by tourist but also local residents because it is open 24/7, and it is providing a pleasant resting space for users with its artificial but grand scale and facility. This shows that he green space that city requires can be adopted indoors and not just on the outdoor space, and it also shows the possibility of constructing and expanding a public space of new concept.

- Small natural space within the city; Pocket Park

We are naturally accepting the crowded urban lifestyle as a result of rapid urbanization. However, high population density has, in truth, induced unnecessarily high level of tension to urban residents, and in particular, acted as the key cause of extreme stress and psychological pressure during the pandemic period. Since the emotional tiredness induced by urban life is also directly linked to the city environment that mostly lacks greenery and natural space, small parks that are positioned within the idle space of cities, that is, pocket parks could be helpful in resolving issues that can be generated in crowded cities. 

Pocket Park refers to the green space that is planned in a small space in the city so that citizens can take light walks to visit and take rest. It is usually planned as a part of the regeneration of the city to transform a deserted space within a city that has low utilization rate, and the greenery that is established in the city drive physical activities to have a positive impact on the health of the citizens while also providing a place for rest to the busy modern citizens to enhance the quality of life for individuals.

( ©Project for Public Spaces )

Pocket park that first emerged in Manhattan, US in 1967 was an attempt that was made to improve the urban landscape where the natural environment was being destroyed and becoming more desolate as a result of the development of the city that centered on industrial facilities. The first pocket park, Paley Park, was established as a pleasant resting space by creating artificial waterfalls and planting ivy and trees in a small private building space that was less than 120-pyeong in terms of floor area. The sound of the large waterfall that is taller than 6 meters within Paley Park is used as an efficient public space that helps the citizens to take mental rest while blocking out the urban noise, and this became a starting point to spread open-type pocket parks of various forms in the idle spaces within the city.

Mid main park in Vancouver, Canada is a small park designed for resting and outdoor activities that was formed in the connecting point between residential and commercial areas. This park was established in the late 80s while installing a composition with plastic straw motif and greenery in a long triangular land to preserve the history of the popular milk and ice cream store ‘Pam Dairy and Milk bar’ when it was closing. The composition of the layered plants aided in rearranging the tree-lined roads, and now the local residents are making use of the park as a resting space with fond memories. Positive aspects of Pocket Park could be felt with residents who were talking while sitting on chairs that are installed in the parks and children who were having fun.


Large parks in major cities such as the Central Park of New York and Hyde Park of London are contributing to the community activities, rest places for citizens and formation of the city image, almost to the extent that they have become symbolic attractions in the cities. Compared to these, Pocket Park has a relatively smaller area, and it is special in that it can form an open space with contents that are required by the city and the citizens in line with the land conditions. Urban parks are well known to be valuable in terms of being able to provide space where citizens can be with nature while enhancing the landscape, and the strength of Pocket Park is that the small open space acts as a bridge within the city to create a connecting grid. Hence, if small urban greenery with local contents were to spread centering on idle spaces within the city, it would be helpful in raising emotional and physical resilience and mitigating the stress of social relationship caused by the pandemic. 

Re-discovery of the obvious and the future of a new city

Toady’s city that has passed the time of confusion that was caused by the pandemic, and is entering the phase of recovery while making efforts to resume better lives by responding to change and also to acquire resilience. Norman Robert Foster, an architect in UK mentioned that the pandemic will accelerate the trend for change rather than fundamentally transforming the city when we view the large trajectory of history. This is because various crises that flooded into cities in the past ultimately led to the accelerated and amplified occurrence of inevitable innovation and cases. 

The pandemic made us realize the precious value of the open space in the city, the road, wind, air and warm weather that we temporarily forgot about, and greenery and parks in cities played a clear role in mitigating the feelings of depression and isolation felt by the citizens in the middle of the crisis that the city is facing due to the prolonged distancing measures. The cumulative effect of the isolated life is scattering the urban population or changing the outskirts, and people are also more interested about the healthy and friendly city in which health and safety is guaranteed. Such a phenomenon acts as the basis for the prediction that the past attempts and implementation of cities to establish greeneries in the city that aimed to contribute to the well-being and health of citizens will gradually accelerate with the pandemic acting as the starting point.

Initiatives for urban space of the future should be able to maximize individual access to public space by reflecting a more active and open characteristic with health and safety at the center. The current pandemic could be remembered as a starting point that accelerated the improvement in the urban environment if specific considerations are made by the city on the shape of sustainable public space that can embody the daily lives of cities in line with the trend that aims for a humane and active city 

Writer I Seunghee Hong (HongIk University)

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