Dear Friends and Colleagues, While we continue to persevere through the effects of Covid-19, cities are also grappling with how to reopen in a safe and responsible manner. People are eager to get out of their homes and start being social again, albeit with caution. Landscape architects are uniquely qualified to meet these challenges and provide bold solutions.
Over the summer, the Neighborhood Design Center solicited submissions for their Design for Distancing competition in conjunction with the City of Baltimore. Over 160 submissions were received, many of them by landscape architects. The results of that competition are now available in a guidebook that I encourage you to check out. It is gratifying to see many members of this chapter among the 10 selected designs. These solutions should be immensely helpful in the reopening process in the city and elsewhere.
But what about after Covid-19? I believe that many ideas that come out of this difficult time are very applicable to life beyond coronavirus. Better utilization of public space is crucial to the health of communities. The residents of Fells Point are already seeing that. Capitalizing on now underutilized parking and an overly wide portion of Thames Street, the neighborhood has captured the extra space to spread out diners and create an entirely different atmosphere for the bustling bar and restaurant district. It is hard to not see the parallels to Park(ing) Day and exclaim, “we’ve been saying this would work all along!”
Road closures and other ideas are being implemented elsewhere with positive reviews by their communities. However, we must remember that access to public space and the investment to better utilize it is not spread equally. How will landscape architects and other designers simultaneously create pandemic-resilient cities and address systemic inequality? How will other areas of the built environment change (or not)? Can these solutions also positively address climate change? Everything you read about the outlook of the profession says that we are positioned to be indispensable in this new normal. Are we rising to the occasion?
Benjamin Boyd, PLA, ASLA
President - Maryland Chapter