The COVID-19 Era, or How Can Cities Develop Immunity to Pandemics


A fully self-sufficient city of the future, green skyscrapers reducing the CO2 level (and, if necessary, allowing people to self-isolate more comfortably in their apartments) — or investing in improving the health of the nation by creating public spaces that "invite" people to exercise and boost their immunity?

What strategies will countries choose to prevent epidemics and fight infection tsunamis? Which of the concepts — escaping from the city or returning to the "my house is my castle" stance — will win? This will be discussed by the participants of the conference "Urban Environment in the Post-Pandemic Era: New Challenges for Architects and Urbanists" in the Creative Environment and Urbanism Section. Among the speakers are Vicente Guallart and Stefano Boeri, whose projects are used by China and Albania to create cities resistant to environmental, climatic, and now epidemiological challenges.

Despite the events of the last half-year period, cities have been and remain the best form of human coexistence. According to UN estimates, more than half of the world's population lives in cities already, and this figure will closely approximate 70% by the middle of the century. It means that the main question is how to make the cities safer and more pandemic-ready. World practices of fighting infections include many aspects: elimination of social ghettos with higher disease spread rate and virtually no means of controlling it; countering epidemics by improving the health of citizens; creating natural barriers between residents in case of necessity to keep a distance; re-ignited disputes about the priority of public and private transport, pedestrians and cyclists; control of pedestrian flows; concentrating life and all functions, including work, in a single apartment, and much more. Experts of the panel discussion "Urban Environment in the Post-Pandemic Era: New Challenges for Architects and Urbanists" will present their vision of how humanity can respond to new demands, especially since the speakers include architects with experience in urban planning literally from scratch. The conference will be attended by Stefano Boeri, an Italian architect, head of the Stefano Boeri Architetti bureau that implements projects of green skyscrapers reducing pollutive emissions and air temperature and using land sparingly in the face of urbanization across the world, from Milan to China. He is also the author of the General Local Plan of the Albanian capital Tirana to be implemented by 2030 and the project of a green city with a population of 1.5 million in China. Another speaker for the session will be Vicente Guallart, founder of Guallart Architects and co-founder of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, who won the 2020 competition for the development plan for Xiong'an, a new city in China already referred to as a post-COVID one. Xiong'an will be as self-sufficient as possible, ready for quarantine measures, and designed to give people a chance to work and live comfortably under a lock-down. Alexey Novikov, President of the Habidatum company engaged in working with Big Data and analytics will speak about his observations of human flows during the pandemic and share his thoughts on which part of the urban population is ready to return "to its countryside roots". The session will also be attended by Mikhail Shvydkoy, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cultural Cooperation, Petr Kudryavtsev, urbanist and founder of Citymakers, and chief architects of Moscow and St. Petersburg Sergey Kuznetsov and Vladimir Grigoriev.

"The prospects for city development lie in high density under such mandatory conditions as competent planning, increasing living space size standards, creating public spaces for recreation and sports. And the pandemic will not change these priorities because they are shaped by complex multiple-factor conditions. But the virus has taught us its lessons, and it is our duty to reflect on them and, if necessary, draw the right conclusions. The experience of our foreign colleagues in the field of green construction, urban planning, in the use of new technologies such as, for example, unmanned transport, which will be the focus of Mr. Guallart's project, is very interesting from this perspective", noted curator of the section Sergey Kuznetsov, the Chief Architect of Moscow.

The panel discussion "Urban Environment in the Post-Pandemic Era: New Challenges for Architects and Urbanists" will take place on November 12, 2020, at 12:15–13:45 at the Hermitage's General Staff Building. Registration for the participants of the Professional Flow of the Forum will be open until October 26 at The program of the section is currently being shaped and is subject to change: follow the news.