The long view: coronavirus’ impact on the built environment

Hong Kong density shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Ike Ijeh talks to leading architects about long-term effects on everything work places and public spaces to urban density and climate change

The current coronavirus pandemic represents the world’s biggest political, social and economic shock since the Second World War. While, mercifully, we do not have to contend with military hostilities, the way of life of virtually every person on the planet has been disrupted beyond recognition and in a manner that would have been utterly unthinkable just weeks ago.

But what happens when the outbreak has ended? Will things instantly revert back to normal? Will building sites fill up again, planes fly again, public squares teem with people, offices fill up, commuters get back into their cars? Or will there be longer lasting changes that will see the way of life we have all taken for granted for much of the late 20th and early 21st centuries permanently changed forever?

The Second World War offers a sobering precedent. Once it ended, life in Britain did not revert back to its pre-1939 state, instead it assumed a completely different socio-political trajectory that still defines our way of life today. Famously the victorious wartime government suffered a shock defeat in a general election. A new reformist government established the welfare state in Britain and the NHS, rightly the source of so much adulation in our current circumstances, was formed.

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