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Community: How to build adaptive public spaces for communities in pandemic and beyond?

‘Adaptative Public Spaces: Places for People in the Pandemic and Beyond’ is a report recently released by Knight Foundation and the global urban design firm Gehl. The document revealed, with a data analysis, the importance of considering public spaces as a priority when it comes to post pandemic society integration and interaction. Community engagement is a key factor for understanding space’s life cycle. Promoting the Community's active role in the design and governance processes can positively increase the people’s attachment, participation and usage of public spaces.

“Adaptive Public Spaces: Places for People in the Pandemic and Beyond” looked at seven different public spaces across the U.S. (each of which received partial funding from Knight) to assess their impact in four different areas—design and programming; community/resident focus; its impact on the broader community, town, or city; and its long-term financial and operational sustainability”.

What are the key findings of this study?

  • Residents from a specific location visit more of their public spaces when they reflect resident needs, have historic and artistic characters.

  • In order to achieve equity in spaces, the community needs to participate and engage (design and governance).

  • The prioritization of community engagement in terms of the lifecycle of a space is inevitably going to enhance positive effect on a wider spectrum.

  • Flexible community-led design, inclusive processes, and capacity-building helped sites develop sustainable operating models and adapt to changing conditions — including the pandemic.

Also, the report emphasized three practices that can be useful in optimizing public space design:

  • Create spaces with equity in mind.

  • Design spaces with the input of communities that are impacted.

  • Become financially sustainable.

At MKThink we are also looking at how spaces can adapt to our evolving needs over time -- sometimes faster when we have a pandemic! -- and how those spaces can create strong communities. We appreciate that others like Gehl Studios are conducting great research that we can leverage in our work as well.

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