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Public Spaces in the Age of Covid

The power of public spaces during this pandemic has crystallized the importance of our work. Access to equitable spaces is more than an amenity; it’s critical for our physical, emotional, and mental health. In the past few weeks, we have witnessed the evolution of streets and sidewalks -our largest public spaces- into platforms of civic discourse and sites of protests.

Together, we have experienced some of the most difficult and devastating experiences. It has been heartbreaking to see that racial and socioeconomic factors are playing a role in who is being affected by this pandemic and we are beginning to understand that poverty is not the result of personal choices, but the product of many failed systems.

Hive Public Space is constantly learning and adapting. We can not solve a problem we do not understand and regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or background, we ALL have much to gain by deepening our understanding of how we got to this place. We must re-imagine public spaces. They are functioning according to their design and they are not safe or welcoming to all. We can implement a series of short and long-term strategies to promote change. Short term, It is crucial that we cater to the urgent needs of our communities with quick and temporary solutions, but in doing so we must start a conversation that includes race and addresses the long-term effects of this pandemic. We are seeing efforts from all around the world, that reclaim space from cars to give it back to people, but many of these temporary changes (Open Streets, Sidewalk widening) are benefiting those of us that have the privilege to work from home and need recreational spaces. We need to also think about those essential workers that need to continue relying on those streets to work or the countless protesters that have faced violence in the name of protecting property and preserving “order”. One thing that is clear to us is that many of today's problems can not be solved by one discipline. Since the inception of our company, we've had a growing "Hive" of experts that contribute to and advise our work with their specific areas of expertise. Collaboration is key, and we must always include different voices so our message can resonate better with all.

Long-term strategies include desperate changes in policy, zoning, and funding structures to allow for the necessary transformation of our existing public spaces and the creation of new ones; these new spaces will serve as more than recreational hubs and can be both inclusive and sustainable. Let’s hope that we can re-awaken interest in parks and open spaces long overlooked by city officials, and taken for granted by residents.

We are taking the time to listen, read, and learn. Our current approach will continue to evolve and we are committed to the work. We are calling on other Architecture, Urban Design, and Placemaking firms to join us and take action on the urgent work and conversations that are needed. We need to ensure that our public spaces and cities are working and welcoming all.

Photo Courtesy : The City of Virginia Beach

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