The Acceleration of Technology, Systems and Urban Policy in the Post-Pandemic City
We are now in year two of a global disaster: a modern pandemic with no defined end date. Many of the rules and norms of the way things used to be are now being challenged. Incredible disruption has generated seismic shifts in the social and physical realms that will shape the future for decades, if not the century.
The “temporary” inconveniences, emergency measures, delays and postponements of 2020, are becoming a way of life in 2021. And although the pandemic has impacted all sectors of society, its effects on the way we live, work, learn, celebrate, and even breathe will be manifest most strongly in the buildings, vehicles, and public spaces of cities and the human environment.
Disruption by the pandemic initially caused a state of paralysis in cities. Offices and schools were emptied, subways deserted, entertainment and sports venues shuttered. The economy descended into recession and unemployment skyrocketed. But, very quickly, people responded, as they always do, through adaptation and innovation in a remarkable demonstration of resilience. Life, the economy, and human progress had to continue, just differently.
Now it seems everything must be rethought, reimagined, redesigned, or repositioned. The innovators, designers and visionaries among us already have plans and ideas in the works. And the pandemic provides the (inopportune) opportunity to fast-forward their development.
Remote working, online classes, telemedicine, and ecommerce were not invented in 2020, but over the year, they have become widely adopted and integrated into society. Likewise, modular construction, touchless entry, and expedited permitting are not new ideas, but suddenly these technologies and policies are being widely accepted and rapidly implemented.
In this new symposium at MIT, we hosted conversations with innovators and visionaries, academics, global firms and novel startups who are accelerating new systems and products for design, cities, and the human environment. Below are the recordings from two days of insightful and thoughtful presentations and discussions.
April 26, 2021
Professor Danielle Wood
Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
Assistant Professor (Joint) of Aeronautics and Astronautics
MIT Media Lab
The Advance of Digitization in Design
How are AI and computation impacting design.
Are we seeing an industry transformation with the recent development of design tools and methods in tandem with increasing computational power? What will the speed and ingenuity in design bring?
Prof. Caitlin Mueller
MIT Department of Architecture
Director, Engineering Data Science Product Management
Director Building Design Strategy
Co-founder and CEO
MITdesignX 2018 Cohort
Modular Construction / Modular Real Estate
We can now build and utilize space in radically different ways. What are we seeing in terms of industry adoption and client expectation?
How is the move to modular construction addressing fairness and equality in housing and labor, and how is access to homeownership changing?
How is the urban landscape adapting to new forms of commerce, living and entertainment?
As social restrictions continue in some format across the globe, people become even more accustomed to remote shopping, eating, and entertaining. The public square and the agora are replaced by the “link”, the podcast and the automated warehouse.
While we will soon return to a public life of crowds and interaction, will public space be transformed? For better or worse? What changes are being made in the design of buildings for large-scale assembly? And how will new supply chain logistics that support changing shopping and dining needs impact the form and function of our cities?
Managing Director, Head of Development & Construction
Founder and Creative Director
The Silver Room
Cities & Urban Design Leader, Design Director, Principal
April 27, 2021
Faculty Director, MITdesignX
MIT School of Architecture and Planning
Professor Molly Wright Steenson
Senior Associate Dean for Research, College of Fine Arts,
K&L Gates Associate Professor of Ethics and Computational Technologies, Carnegie Mellon University
Changing the Rules of Engagement
Democratization and accountability in planning and design.
Are the emerging challenges of the pandemic, combined with renewed campaigns for racial and social justice creating a new tipping point for transparency and accountability in planning, design and governance?
Planning Head, EPP
MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning
MITdesignX 2019 Cohort
Director, Planning and Building
City of Oakland
Boarding at All Doors, or None at All
Fundamental changes in policy and culture that are allowing us to advance design faster than ever.
We can make change without much effort as long as we accept change as inevitable. Boarding a bus without paying the driver is possible. Removing street parking to make room for bikes and cafes is possible. As is making route changes on demand. Such changes in procedure/design have been relatively easy during the pandemic, but will they endure?
Senior Director of Marketing and Communications
Global Head of Cities and Transportation Policy
CEO, GoMetro and GoAscendal
MITdesignX 2020 cohort
The Next Pandemic is Now
How do we plan and prepare for the next global catastrophe? Has the pandemic opened the door to wide acceptance of even greater threats to cities such as dwindling fresh water or rising sea levels? Have we learned any lessons? Or is a slow-moving threat still too abstract?
Chief Design Officer
Design Group Italia
Prof. of Physical Oceanography
MIT Dept of Earth, Atmospheric
and Planetary Sciences (EAPS)
Sustainability Team Lead
MITdesignX 2020 cohort