Building Back Better Resilient Public Spaces What the COVID-19 pandemic changed in urban planning and design

Main Article Content

Anna Attademo
Libera Amenta
Marica Castigliano


The aim of the paper is to point out the role of resilient public spaces in ensuring public health and safety in the time of pandemic and in multi-risk scenarios. The investigation of urban strategies – that guarantee accessibility and flexibility of public spaces – is framed in opposition to the policies of closure and forbiddance of use which have largely been applied during the COVID-19 pandemic in the years 2020-2022, especially in Italy. Through a review of current policies on the topic of multi-risk exposure and emergency management at the global, European, national, and local level (with the case of the Campania Region, in South Italy), the paper underlines the weaknesses of urban planning and design instances in emergency decision-making processes. A selection of initiatives that experimented new spatial uses and configurations of public spaces is used to reflect on how recent practices reacted to the pandemic, as an alternative to restrictive, non-resilient approaches. The results are discussed and interpreted as relevant components to build back better, reinterpreting the role of public spaces towards an innovative research agenda for more sustainable and resilient planning and design.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
AttademoA., AmentaL., & CastiglianoM. (2023). Building Back Better Resilient Public Spaces. UPLanD - Journal of Urban Planning, Landscape & Environmental Design, 7(1), 39-60.


Agamben, G. (1998). Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford University Press.

Agamben, G. (2020, 25th February). Lo stato d’eccezione provocato da un’emergenza immotivata. Il manifesto.

Almendra, R., Santana, P., & Costa, C. (2021). Spatial inequalities of COVID-19 incidence and associated socioeconomic risk factors in Portugal. Boletín de La Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles, 91. doi: 10.21138/bage.3160

Aloi, A., Alonso, B., Benavente, J., Cordera, R., Echáni, E., González, F., Ladisa, C., Lezama-Romanelli, R., López-Parra, Á., Mazzei, V., Perrucci, L., Prieto-Quintana, D., Rodríguez, A., & Sañudo, R. (2020). Effects of the COVID-19 Lockdown on Urban Mobility: Empirical Evidence from the City of Santander (Spain). Sustainability, 12(9). doi: 10.3390/su12093870

Amenta, L., Attademo, A., & Castigliano, M. (2020). Di-stanze urbane. Spazi pubblici adattivi per la tutela della collettività. Urbanistica Informazioni, 289 Special issue, 98-102.

AAA-CATAP. Associazione Analisti Ambientali, C.A.T.A.P. (2021). Rapporto di Studio: Geografia dei contagi da COVID-19 in Italia nel 2020. vers.2 – 16.1.2021.

Barbarossa, L. (2020). The post pandemic city: Challenges and opportunities for a non-motorized urban environment. An overview of Italian cases. Sustainability, 12(17), 7172.

Bedford, J., Farrar, J., Ihekweazu, C., Kang, G., Koopmans, M., & Nkengasong, J. (2019). A new twenty- first century science for effective epidemic response. Nature, 575(7781), 130–6.

Bolleter, J., Edwards, N., Cameron, R., Duckworth, A., Freestone, R., Foster, S., & Hooper, P. (2022). Implications of the Covid-19 Pandemic: Canvassing Opinion from Planning Professionals. Planning Practice & Research, 37(1), 13–34. doi: 10.1080/02697459.2021.1905991

Bower, J. L., & Christensen, C. M. (1995). Disruptive technologies: catching the wave, Harvard Business Review Video.

Braidotti, R. (2019). A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities. Theory, Culture & Society, 36(6), 31-61. doi:10.1177/0263276418771486

Braidotti, R. (2015). Posthuman Affirmative Politics, Resisting Biopolitics: Philosophical, Political, and Per- formative Strategies, Routledge.

Braidotti, R., Bignall, S. (eds.). (2019). Posthuman Ecologies, Rowman & Littlefield.

Carmona, M. (2019). Principles for public space design, planning to do better. URBAN DESIGN International, 24(1), 47–59. doi: 10.1057/s41289-018-0070-3

Cartenì, A., Di Francesco, L., & Martino, M. (2020). How mobility habits influenced the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic: Results from the Italian case study. Science of The Total Environment, 741, 140489. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140489

Connolly, C., Ali, S. H., & Keil, R. (2020). On the relationships between COVID-19 and extended urbanization. Dialogues in Human Geography, 10(2), 213–216. doi: 10.1177/2043820620934209

Crutzen, P., Stoermer, E. F. (2000). The Anthropocene. IGBP Newsletter, 41.

Dakencatalogues. (2021). Rooftop Catalogue (Rotterdamse Dakendagen).

Davis, M. (2020, 25 March). The Coronavirus Crisis Is a Monster Fueled by Capitalism. In These Times.

De Toro, P., Nocca, F., & Buglione, F. (2021). Real Estate Market Responses to the COVID-19 Crisis: Which Prospects for the Metropolitan Area of Naples (Italy)?. Urban Science, 5(1), 23. doi: 10.3390/urbansci5010023

Djalante, R., Shaw, R. & DeWit, A. (2020). Building resilience against biological hazards and pandemics: COVID-19 and its implications for the Sendai Framework. Progress in Disaster Science, 6. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.101808.

Duhl, L. J., Sanchez, A. K., & W. H. O. R. O. for Europe (1999). Healthy cities and the city planning process: A background document on links between health and urban planning (EUR/ICP/CHDV 03 04 03). WHO Regional Office for Europe.

EC (2016). Action Plan on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, A disaster risk-informed approach for all EU policies. European Commission, Commission Staff Working document.

EC (2021). Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the regions empty. Forging a climate-resilient Europe - the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change. European Commission.

EEA European Environment Agency (2022). Who benefits from nature in cities? Social inequalities in access to urban green and blue spaces across Europe.

Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics (2020). Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience: Massive Scale Testing, Tracing, and Supported Isolation (TTSI) as the Path to Pandemic Resilience for a Free Society. Harvard University.

Fakhruddin, B., Blanchard, K., & Ragupathy, D. (2020). Are we there yet? The transition from response to recovery for the COVID-19 pandemic. Progress in Disaster Science, 7. doi: 10.1016/j.pdisas.2020.100102

Fini, G., & Pezzoni, N. (2010). Il Piano Strutturale di Anversa. Un nuovo dispositivo di convivenza per la città contemporanea. Planum. The European Journal of Planning.

Foucault, M. (1978). Security, Territory, Population, Lectures at the Collège De France.

Foucault, M. (1979). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison, Vintage Books.

Gehl, J. (2011). Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space. Island Press.

Gray, K. (2020). Housing market after Covid-19 lockdown: buyer demand surges for homes with office space, gardens, balconies and near local parks,

Habitat U.N. (2013). Global Public Space Toolkit From Global Principles to Local Policies and Practice. Nairobi: United Nations Human Settlements Programme.

Hariri-Ardebili, M. A. (2020). Living in a Multi-Risk Chaotic Condition: Pandemic, Natural Hazards and Complex Emergencies. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(16), 5635. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17165635

Harteveld, M. & Asadollahi Asl Zarkhah, S. (2021). Public Spaces for Community Resilience. The Evolving Scholar, IFoU 14th Edition.

Harvey, D. (2020, 19 March). Anti-Capitalist Politics in the Time of COVID-19. Jacobin.

Ibert, O., Baumgart, S., Siedentop, S., & Weith, T. (2022). Planning in the Face of Extraordinary Uncertainty: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Planning Practice & Research, 37(1), 1–12.

Jasiński, A. (2022). COVID-19 pandemic is challenging some dogmas of modern urbanism. Cities, 121, 103498. doi: 10.1016/j.cities.2021.103498

Jon, I. (2020). A manifesto for planning after the coronavirus: Towards planning of care. Planning Theory, 19(3), 329-345.

Khalil, M., & Eissa, D. (2022), Balconies during COVID-19 lockdown: Exploring the change in patterns of use in Cairo, Open House International (ahead-of-print). doi: 10.1108/OHI-08-2021-0178

Kennedy, C., Cuddihy, J. & Engel-Yan, J. (2007). The Changing Metabolism of Cities. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 11(2), 43-59.

Komendantova, N., Scolobig, A., Garcia-Aristizabal, A., Monfort, D., & Fleming, K. (2016). Multi-risk approach and urban resilience. International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, (2), 114–132. doi: 10.1108/IJDRBE-03-2015-0013

Larcher, F., Pomatto, E., Battisti, L., Gullino, P., & Devecchi, M. (2021). Perceptions of Urban Green Areas during the Social Distancing Period for COVID-19 Containment in Italy. Horticulturae, 7(3), 55. Li, X., Zhou, L., Jia, T., Peng, R., Fu, X., & Zou, Y. (2020). Associating COVID-19 Severity with Urban Factors: A Case Study of Wuhan. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17186712

Lindblad, S., Wärvik, G.-B., Berndtsson, I., Jodal, E.-B., Lindqvist, A., Messina Dahlberg, G., Papadopoulos, D., Runesdotter, C., Samuelsson, K., Udd, J., & Wyszynska Johansson, M. (2021). School lockdown? Comparative analyses of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in European countries. European Educational Research Journal, 20(5), 564–583. doi: 10.1177/14749041211041237

Malcevschi, S., Santolini, R., Paris, G., Pluchino, P., Mappa dei contagi e condizioni eco-territoriali, Scienze del Territorio, special issue Abitare il Territorio al Tempo del COVID, 33-41. doi: 10.13128/sdt-12290.

Mareggi, M. (ed.) (2020). Spazi aperti. Ragioni, progetti e piani urbanistici, Planum Publisher.

MASS (2020). The Role of Architecture in Fighting COVID-19. Spatial Strategies for Restaurants in Response to COVID-19,

Meerow, S., Newell, J. P., & Stults, M. (2016). Defining urban resilience: A review. Landscape and Urban Planning, 147, 38–49. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.11.011

Mell, I. & Whitten, M. (2021) “Access to Nature in a Post Covid-19 World: Opportunities for Green Infrastructure Financing, Distribution and Equitability Urban Planning”. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18, 1527. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18041527

Patino, M. (2021). The Architecture of Mass Vaccine Distribution. Bloomberg Press.

Pepperell, R., (1995). Posthuman Manifesto.

Poon, L. (2020). A Lesson from Social Distancing: Build Better Balconies, Bloomberg.

RICS, ICE, RIBA, RTPI (2009). The Built Environment Professions in Disaster Risk Reduction and Response. A guide for humanitarian agencies. MLC Press.

Russo, M., & Attademo, A. (2020). Il metabolismo del rischio. In A. Galderisi, M. di Venosa, G. Fera, S. Menoni (eds.), Geografie del rischio. Nuovi paradigmi per il governo del territorio (pp. 43-55). Donzelli Editore.

Secchi, B. (2000). Prima lezione di urbanistica. Editori Laterza.

Sgobbo, A. (2020). Città e pandemie. Densità urbana e densificazione dopo il COVID-19. BDC. Bollettino Del Centro Calza Bini, 20(2), 241-260. doi: 10.6092/2284-4732/7554

Sharifi, A., & Khavarian-Garmsir, A. R. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic: Impacts on cities and major lessons for urban planning, design, and management. Science of The Total Environment, 749, 142391. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142391

Soja, E.W. (1996). Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Blackwell Publishing.

Swyngedouw, E. (2006). Metabolic urbanization. In N. Heynen, M. Kaika, & E. Swyngedouw E. (eds.), In the nature of cities: Urban political ecology and the Politics of Urban Metabolism (Questioning Cities) (20–39). Routledge.

Tanner, T., Surminski, S., Wilkinson, E., Reid, R., Rentschler, J., Rajput, S. (2016). The Triple Dividend of Resilience, A New Narrative for Disaster Risk Management and Development. In S. Surminski, T. Tanner (eds.), Realising the Triple Dividend of Resilience. Climate Risk Management, Policy and Governance. Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-40694-7_1

Teixeira, J. F., & Lopes, M. (2020). The link between bike sharing and subway use during the COVID-19 pandemic: The case-study of New York’s Citi Bike. Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives, 6, 100166. doi: 10.1016/j.trip.2020.100166

Trump, B.D., Keenan, J.M., Linkov, I. (2021). Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives on Systemic Risk and Resilience in the Time of COVID-19. In I. Linkov, J.M. Keenan, B.D. Trump (eds.). COVID-19: Systemic Risk and Resilience. Risk, Systems and Decisions. Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-71587-8_1

UNDRR (2019). Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

UNEP (2020). Adaptation gap Report 2020. United Nations Enviromental Programme.

UNISDR (2015). Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030). United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

UN (2020). Policy brief: COVID-19 in an urban world. United Nations.

Yamori, K., & Goltz, J.D. (2021). Disasters without Borders: The Coronavirus Pandemic, Global Climate Change and the Ascendancy of Gradual Onset Disasters. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 18(3299). doi: 10.3390/ijerph18063299

WHO (2016). International Health Regulations (2005). Third Edition. WHO Press.

WHO (2019). Health. Emergency and disaster risk management framework. WHO Press.

WHO (2020). COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, Operational Planning Guidelines to Support Country Preparedness and Response. WHO Press.

Willows, R., Connell, R., (2003). Climate Adaptation: Risk, Uncertainty and Decision-Making. UKCIP Technical Report, UKCIP.

Xie, J., Luo, S., Furuya, K., & Sun, D. (2020). Urban Parks as Green Buffers During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Sustainability, 12(17).

Xygalatas, D. (2020). Why people need rituals, especially in times of uncertainty. The conversation.

Zacka, B. (2020). An Ode to the Humble Balcony.

Zandieh, R., Nieuwenhuijsen, M., & Zandieh, M. (2020). Adaptability of Public Spaces and Mental Health Inequalities during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health, 6(5).