Before the COVID-19 pandemic, business districts were already seeing decline. As the trend continues, there will be perfect opportunity for innovation. Already known for being a place of firsts and rebirth, The City of London presents an excellent case study for new post-pandemic prototypes of community development.
2020 produced unquestionable proof that work can happen anywhere, and daily business travel has become obsolete. Individual compromise stemming from social distancing produced unexpected results – life slowed, and residents reconnected with their communities. This rediscovery of locality reset the quality of life for billions and supports the “15-Minute City” approach to urban planning; where essentials can be reached in 15 minutes by foot, bicycle, or public transit.
With necessities nearby, and no obligation to commute to work, what will encourage people to return to cities? The choice will be based on fulfilling social and cultural needs safely.
While the “15 Minute City” promotes living design concepts like well-being, resilience, and sustainability, there are drawbacks: marginalization, inequality, discrimination, cultural segregation, territorial stigmatization, and stagnation of creativity. These challenges are typically addressed in the city centers of present-day urban models: currently the places people are retreating from.
We propose a reimagined network of self-reliant neighborhood modules: the “Urban Lattice”. Each district locates basic needs at the heart and less crucial amenities are dispersed farther away. The criticisms above are addressed by placing cultural amenities at interlacing district segments.
The intervention of carefully woven pedways (improving post-war concepts) encourages both residents and visitors to walk; taking time at select locations to pause, learn, shop, relax, work, play, and exchange ideas. Unlike the isolated Highline, this lattice operates integrally as London’s pedestrian circulatory system. Its not just a destination, but the journey. Gathering forums and pocket parks, located at districts’ intersections, provide places for both gathering and respite.
These bespoke pathways weave through both historic and modern cityscapes, using simple materials and repeating modules – all at an evocative human scale. Sometimes observing nearby buildings, sometimes engaging them.
This reincarnated network of pedways supports pedestrian connectivity, celebration of history, and an exploratory approach to work, play, and education.