Date: November 2020

Can the sanitary emergency be a trigger to rethink our cities?

Authors: Marta Marini (Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, Politecnico di Milano)


The Covid-19 pandemic lays bare several problems of livability in our cities. Most of the largest cities are losing the people-oriented characteristic in order to pursue growth and attract investments. Conversely, the emergency reminds us that the essence of cities is to enhance the quality of life of its inhabitants, and build local resilience and sustainability, also through well-planned urbanization. The question we raise in this policy brief is whether this period of emergency could be a springboard to rethink city renewal, allowing the capacity of tackling future challenges – as novel epidemics or climate change effects. Trying to answer this question we provide some historical examples of how sanitary crises have changed the urban environment in the past. Furthermore, we highlight policy suggestions for policymakers and urban planners to foster a sized and liveable city. Multifunctionality, polycentrism, and slow mobility must be key targets to achieve the urban trends of resilience, circularity and sustainability. The tool to realize this bold improvement could be the recent concept of “15 minutes neighbourhood”.

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Can the sanitary emergency be a trigger to rethink our cities?

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