Miquel Martí Casanovas 
Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain

Miquel Martí Casanovas has a PhD in Urbanism and he is assistant professor at the Department of Urbanism and Regional Planning of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia since 2001. Civil Engineer and Master in Political Sciences at Sciences Po Paris, his field of research is the contemporary public space (from its design to the experiences it generates, through the public policies transforming it). Expert in the evolution of public space in Barcelona, he has extended the scope of his research in this field to several European cities, as well as to some American and Asian experiences. He collaborates regularly with other Universities in these three continents through research stays (Harvard 2004, TU Delft 2007, Tongji 2010) and joint projects. He complements his academic career with a professional office dedicated to urban planning for several towns in Catalonia.

Insight from "Expert Group Discussion with the Audience - How will our cities look like in the post-COVID-19 world?"

Miquel responded with the concepts of geography and time, first pointing to the importance of socio-cultural context even when we are facing global threat. The European city model is finite, compact and dense, public spaces are highly designed, and public authorities may lead the urban agenda, yet this may not work in informal cities and settlements. Miquel also explained the need to distinguish cities’ current short-term actions and identify how they have influences on and will accelerate long-term transformations of public spaces and cities. One lesson learnt from short-term measures during COVID-19 is the use of time factor in management of public spaces. For instance, time slots for different users to manage traffic, limited time allowed in a public space, or how online working can help extend the commute schedule and avoid peak hours. Miquel also referred to tactical urbanism, a quick and low cost test to try if the idea of reducing cars is possible, taking the opportunity the pandemic has created. Meanwhile, it is important to assess the economic impacts to address concerns over reduced competitiveness of the city and car industry in order to sustain the momentum in the long run. Another current challenge is to increase the amount of diversified social gathering spaces while maintaining social distancing, which can be a difficult task in a compact city. Temporary weekend street closure is one way, recovery of small transitional (semi-private and semi-public) spaces in the community such as roof top is another. 

 

While India has some of the best software engineers, the wealth gap is huge, how can marginalised communities be engaged? Taipei has a great example of “broadband as a human right”, how is it in other places?

Miquel stressed the significance of digitalization at both top-down and bottom-up levels, to create flexible urban plans by using user and activity data, but also to create community projects incorporating the use of digital platforms. The question of density has also become prominent during the pandemic, regarding whether there should be a new approach to planning. Whereas a century ago density could have been the cause for pervasive spreading of diseases, particularly due to lack of sanitation, Miqual thought that today, mobility, pollution and lifestyle are the causes of urban diseases. Cities should be reasonably dense to allow sustainable mobility and efficient provision of energy, which then provide quality of life when coupled with a diverse typology of public spaces, a good system in terms of both quality and quantity.