What does the future hold for our towns and cities?

Picture of a t with a blue dot next to it, in front of a purple background.

Not 18 months ago, our cities were vibrant places. After all, they’re home to most of the world’s population, centres of economic growth and innovation, and we romanticise them in film, TV, music and art – just take London or New York City, for example.

But as with many pandemics throughout history, the fortune of our cities changed with the onset of COVID-19, and the various lockdowns which ensued. These once bustling streets have since maintained our focus for entirely different reasons, with more than 17,500 chain store outlets closing in the last year, and thousands of individuals and businesses now contemplating moving elsewhere.

But if we’re to look again at evidence from our past, cities do have one of the best track records for reinventing themselves and bouncing back – with positive changes often following dire circumstances. After the Black Death, Medieval towns saw the onset of free movement, leading to better working conditions; the Victorian Era saw the creation of garden cities and better housing.

So could this pandemic be a catalyst for positive change, which may reimagine our city centres? Public figures across the globe would certainly suggest so, as the phrase ‘Build back Better’ becomes the mantra of the year.