The current global pandemic of Covid-19 has created unprecedented conditions for everyone, challenging established ways of working, living and socialising. It has also created incredibly rapid change in cities – from deserted streets as lockdowns are enforced to new ways of socialising and working remotely as social distancing is implemented. And it has given renewed attention to the role of key sectors, especially around health care, and the fragility of the economic basis of sectors frequently labelled as low skilled.

Whilst acknowledging that getting a perspective of the future can be difficult as we live in these times of great uncertainty, it does provide a moment to reflect on what is likely to change (in future) as a result of the current experiences. As Robertson (2018) said “predicting someone’s future is not overly difficult… often all you need to do is look as someone’s present in order to predict their future”.

As part of our research on the future of cities, the IFC Team have put together some short briefings on how todays’ (different) experiences of living with Covid-19 might impact on our urban futures. We’d love to hear you thoughts on this – join the conversation through Twitter

The briefings are based on experiences in the UK, but many of the issues will have more global significance. The following are split into two parts – the first exploring some of the trends which we believe will be ACCELERATED by the changes in social behaviour around the coronavirus, and the second where alternative ways of imaging the city future might EMERGE. And as the world and in particular the world’s cities adapt to living within the new coronavirus, we consider how cities are ADAPTING to living with the new reality.

  1. Accelerating trends

Changing attitudes to cash

The final death knell of the High Street store?

A homeworking experiment

Shifts to online shopping? – survey data from Appinio 24/3/2020

  1. Emergent opportunities

Debating a denser urban future

Urban second homes :  Escaping health crises – unwelcome social distancing

Urban air quality improvements

Low skill precarious work in the smart city – pushing back the process of skill gentrification

    3. Adapting and living with the ‘new reality’

Distancing the future of the high street shop



Changing attitudes to cash - Robert RogersonChanging attitudes to cash - Robert Rogerson

There was a time when handing over banknotes or coins to complete the exchange of goods and services was viewed as the norm. The physicality of the transaction represented not only its completion but also provided a degree of intimacy and immediacy – a one-to-one exchange with the value of its secured through the transfer of money and with ‘cash in hand’ for ready use by the receiver.

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Urban densification and resilience - Donagh HorganUrban densification and resilience - Donagh Horgan

Cities around the world face many shocks – social, economic and environmental – that test their capacities for resilience, and necessitate more holistic and integrated spatial and community planning. The current crisis, around Covid-19, lays bare a lack of investment in societal infrastructure for many governments across the world who have embraced austerity politics and neoliberal urban management.

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The final death knell of the High Street store? - Robert RogersonThe final death knell of the High Street store? - Robert Rogerson

Across the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has extended its tentacles through the high streets and centres of almost every city and town. Brick and mortar businesses and retailers have closed as people are instructed to social distance, self-isolate or lockdown. In the absence of footfall – and for the safety and wellbeing of their staff – most shops have closed. And staff have been laid off or sent home.

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A homeworking experiment - Robert RogersonA homeworking experiment - Robert Rogerson

This week one of my friends started working from home, forced to do so as a response to the Covid-19 measures here in the UK.  It took him a few days to get a room in his home set up like an office and to make the connections required to ensure he could continue to be in touch with his work colleagues. But much to his surprise he has found it a positive experience. As he says “It’s not perfect yet, and we’re having to make a few adjustments as we learn, but it will certainly make me reflect on how I, and we, work going forward”.

Across the UK this experience is being repeated many times. The shift to homeworking is a new experience.

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Escaping health crises – unwelcome social distancing (Robert Rogerson)Escaping health crises – unwelcome social distancing (Robert Rogerson)

It is a natural reaction that when asked to isolate oneself from others to seek out places which are isolated or more isolated. It is no surprise therefore to see across the world one reaction to the current pandemic that, when asked to avoid social contact and to maintain social distances, some people have sought to leave the city – for second homes in more rural, less urban locations; to leave temporary accommodation and rented rooms to more to more permanent family homes; and in those case where there are still flights or long distance transport to move from one country to their homeland.

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