Defining the Future of Our Cities: Five Areas of Opportunity for a Post-Pandemic World

TitleDefining the Future of Our Cities: Five Areas of Opportunity for a Post-Pandemic World
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsSchaper, O
KeywordsCities; COVID-19

Cities are works in progress. At the core of what makes dense urban environments authentic, desirable, and attractive lies a network of forces that create unpredictability, serendipity, and diversity - qualities that in times of social distancing appear to be a threat to our personal safety and well-being. How can we, as urban planners and designers, devise strategies and tools to help influence the trajectory of these complex settings, enable equitable futures, and contribute to a sustainable and prosperous livelihood for communities and businesses — all while making people feel safer in a pandemic?

There is no quick fix. Even if an effective vaccine gets us past current quarantine practices, the possibility of pandemics will continue to exist. We need to continue to strengthen vital community infrastructure, shore up institutional support, provide spaces that can adapt to quarantine and surge-demand conditions, and in general establish effective communication protocols that deliver trusted and actionable information.

We are witnessing global disruption at an unprecedented scale. But if we can live though disruptions as a new normal, and in ways that allow us to keep the economy going while staying engaged with work, school, family, and friends — then we may emerge even stronger and more resilient as a community.


Oliver Schaper
As a design principal and Northeast Regional Leader of Cities and Urban Design, Oliver oversees and spearheads planning and urban design projects, strategies, and communication tools for varying scale projects including master plans, environmental systems, commercial and institutional headquarters, mixed-use campuses, and residential developments. Oliver is a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute and a fellow at the Urban Design Forum. Contact him at