Pandemic Urbanism

May 14, 2020

Rethinking sustainable urban planning in the age of COVID-19: perspectives from an international network of megacities

By Flavio Coppola (
Urban Planning Program Manager, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

Coauthor: Anna Zetkulic

The author will give this presentation at the Pandemic Urbanism Symposium in a session titled “Peripheries and Centers,” from 3:15 – 4:15 PM on May 29, 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the operations of urban planning departments across the world, as staff were initially called on to respond the emergency. It also planted the seeds of a more fundamental reorganization of planning priorities and practices. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an international NGO that supports megacities in taking bolder climate action, has redirected its networks of city-to-city support (which focused on different areas of sustainable policy) towards COVID-19-related content, as this has become the first priority of mayors and their staff. For urban planners, initial exchanges between cities focused on emergency responses and the use of mapping skills to support health departments, but as the pandemic increasingly becomes the new normal, practitioners are acknowledging the need to rethink principles and policies that they had promoted up to now, in an effort to reduce emissions and increase the resilience of their cities to the effects of climate change. These early city-to-city exchanges, facilitated by C40’s network, shed light on potential future evolutions of planning practice: the perceived danger of urban density, a focus on community resilience, an emphasis on green and open spaces, a preference for building typologies including balconies and courtyards, the prioritization of the upgrading of informal settlements… This contribution will aim to present some of the emerging trends discussed within the network of urban planners facilitated by C40, as the pandemic transforms, yet again, planning thinking and practice.