Pandemic Urbanism

May 14, 2020

Treating the Chronic as Urgent: Rethinking Recovery Investments to Cultivate Inclusive Physical and Social Environments

By Deborah Helaine Morris (
Loeb Fellow, Harvard Graduate School of Design

The author will give this presentation at the Pandemic Urbanism Symposium in a session titled “Resilience by Any Other Name,” from 2:00 – 3:00 PM on May 29, 2020.

It is often challenging to engage in long term planning while in the midst of crisis response. Yet it is possible to learn from the framing of past response and recovery plans to develop new and better plans for the future. Recovery from COVID-19 provides an opportunity for a more open and engage discussion about the underlying chronic conditions that have allowed a crisis to take hold.

This talk will include lessons from practice in crisis response efforts in order to pose important framing questions for ground-up engagement between communities and public agencies. I will include spatial planning issues such as segregation, environmental health, housing affordability, climate risk, and access to housing opportunity. The discussion will have a base in pragmatism, a basis in existing power structures and authorities but still illustrate the potential for adjustments to the physical and social inequalities of urban life.