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How can we advance towards more sustainable and resilient cities after Covid-19?

Cities. Barcelona is organising an international conference on 5, 6 and 7 October, entitled “Barcelona Superblock – The city after Covid”.

Barcelona is organising an international conference on 5, 6 and 7 October, entitled “Barcelona Superblock – The city after Covid”, an event aimed at being a point of exchange for thinking up what cities after the pandemic ought to be like and how they wish to be built.

The conference will invite reflection on what has changed, what has been learnt and how urban environments have been modified following this exceptional situation, as a starting point for discussing what cities of the future will need to be like.

People from around the world will have an opportunity, within this framework, to share their visions and experiences and think up together what they would like post-pandemic cities to be like.

A joint initiative

This international initiative is being jointly launched by Barcelona City Council and the Placemaking Europe Foundation, a European network working with urban planners, activists, architects and sociologists, among others, to set out strategies and research public-space tools to make cities more sustainable and habitable.

The event is taking place from 5 to 7 October with online and face-to-face sessions at the Ateneu d’Innovació Digital i Democràtica – Canòdrom, in the Congrés i els Indians neighbourhood, in the Sant Andreu district.

Towards more resilient cities

The aims is to discuss and reflect on the measures that can turn Barcelona and the other cities into more resilient and sustainable spaces. Barcelona, then, will become the world capital of post-pandemic urban-planning discussions for three days through this international online and face-to-face platform.

The conference kicks off on 5 October, at 5 pm, giving rise to a total of eight sessions during which issues such as habitable cities, a new economic model for cities, public cities, breathable and inclusive cities, connected cities and culture, cities and gentrification will be discussed.

Intersecting reflections

The conference will feature project presentations, videos and other events, such as a dialogue between mayors on how to implement flexible and resilient strategies for adapting cities to changing conditions relating to the epidemiological threats and other crises that may arise in the future.

Tickets for digital access will enable access to all real-time video sessions, while the Canòdrom will have a limited number of seats available. Anyone wishing to take part will have to register in advance, which they can do as of today, from the https://aftercovid.city/superillabarcelona/ website.

Post-pandemic lessons

The Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to considerable collective and international-scale reflection on the future of cities. Given the 95% of all coronavirus cases registered in urban environments during the first few months of the pandemic, cities have had to rise to big challenges last year which put transport and public spaces, among other things, to the test and brought about a profound change in city residents’ daily lives and habits.

The pandemic has highlighted issues such as the following over the last few months:

  • The importance of proximity, neighbourhoods and the need for building resilient and cohesive vicinities have been rediscovered.
  • A change of habits towards more economic and sustainable forms of transport, such as cycling and walking.
  • The importance of urban public spaces that promote strolls and communal outdoor activities.

The post-pandemic scenario has set the international community the challenge of building a more resilient city model capable of taking on future crises. The new UN-Habitat report, Cities and Pandemics: Towards a more just, green and healthy future Cities and Pandemics: Towards a more just, green and healthy future, demonstrates, based on documents from over 1,700 cities, that cities can be capable of reducing the impact of pandemics by being fairer, healthier and more environmentally friendly.

It is during these times, then, that cities have been and are the first line of defence in the battle against the virus and need to adapt to provide solutions to the challenges of the future, which will be given not just for possible future pandemics but also for the climate-change scenario we find ourselves in. The conference, which is organised for this coming October in Barcelona, aims to be a first scenario for discussing what these solutions will have to be like.