The global pandemic has changed our world, for better or for worse, for millions of people. We all learned something about the environment we live in and a lot about ourselves. Throughout history, we have seen pandemics change the living environments, but they also change how we live in those environments. It is fair to say that Covid-19 has already restyled our thinking (about everything!), shaken the systems and restructured the processes around us.
The ability of knowledge to circulate in our very connected world has homogenised and standardised the urban world and its narratives. One such aspect that is repeatedly highlighted across the world is the future of our cities. The multiple narratives and discourses in the favour of or questioning the role of the cities have made us realise that there will be a permanent shift (how dramatic, we are beginning to see it already) in the way we live, work and enjoy.
In this context and through 'The Specifi-City Project', I agree and support the many urbanists, city thinkers and city lovers that think our cities are and will be very much relevant in the future despite the pandemic and many crises that we all may have to face. During the many months of lockdowns and restrictions, when people retreated indoors, the abandoned city streets and spaces posed a new question and a need to reinvent the use and meaning of these city public spaces. If all the cities are reacting to the pandemic and talking about the same issues faced by each, then what is it that really sets them apart from each other. I believe, it is the local and place-based response to a global problem, that 'SpecifiCity' in thinking, articulating and contextualising the issue in each place is what differentiates them from one another.
In our globalised world, where knowledge and ideas are frequently shared and exchanged, the many initiatives currently being discussed (e.g. the 15-minute city) about our cities' future will become a new trend followed by many cities. But even before we start emulating, thinking and planning to bring in drastic changes to our cities, I feel it is imperative to appreciate and build upon their intrinsic qualities and character, their specific and inherent nature, and nuances that set them apart from one another.
As Jan Gehl says, ''First we shape the cities - then they shape us'', I believe we all have an important role in shaping our cities, in keeping them as vibrant, thriving and innovative. The pandemic has revealed the cracks and weaknesses in our cities at the same time shown how resilient and agile our cities and its people are.
The 'Specifi-City Project' is not a city guide for visitors, nor a travel blog, but a celebration of the reasons why we love the city we live in. It is an urbanist's perspective in unravelling what makes a city special and unique. Most importantly, it is also a platform for many city enthusiasts like me to share their experiences and thoughts about their own city.
The cities that will appear in this project are not a pre-selected list of cities, but an exciting mix of metropolitan cities, global cities and cities that are important in their own regions, merely a collection of cities that I have travelled to and would like to share my experience and thoughts of. The Specifi-City Project as a collection of large, medium and small cities coupled with interesting photographs (my own copyright), hopes to resonate with your own experience and memories and may even encourage you to make travel plans to some of these intriguing and exciting places.
To begin this 'celebration' of our cities, it will have to be everyone's favourite (and mine), indeed the most popular and global city: London.