Urban Commons Lab

As the first region in the United States with a reported case of COVID-19, Seattle has been the ground zero for COVID-19 responses. Within days after the University of Washington ended in-person instructions, followed by other universities around the country, Urban Commons Lab launched a Distance Collaboration Commons and a social media group to support collaboration and sharing of online resources in support of design for social change. Currently, we are a partner for 2020: Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic, an initiative jointly developed by City Space Architecture and the School of Architecture, Chinese University of Hong Kong.

To leverage our collective resources to better serve the community, we initiated a COVID-19 Support Network within the College of Built Environments and supported three ongoing projects with help from faculty, students, friends, and alumni:

Distributed PPE Production — Thanks to local artist George Lee and our hard-working student volunteers, a total of 552 face shields have been delivered to healthcare organizations in Brooklyn, New Orleans, Atlanta, and community partners in Seattle.

In Public, beyond the Pandemic — A working group of students and faculty organized a panel discussion “Reclaiming the Public, Beyond the Pandemic,” as part of the Pandemic Urbanism Symposium on May 29, featuring Jesús Aguirre (Seattle Parks and Recreation), Cary Moon (citizen activist), Brice Maryman (MIG), and Cary Simmons (The Trust for Public Land), moderated by Catherine De Almeida (UW Landscape Architecture). The discussion addresses issues of equity, justice, and resilience in the post-pandemic city. The recording of the session will be available online soon. An online repository of sources and references is being created to support future policy and planning research.

Seattle Street Sink — Since April, our faculty, alumni, and community partners have been working on a prototype, outdoor hand-washing station to address the need for personal hygiene during the pandemic for the vulnerable populations on the street. The first installation was completed on May 19, hosted by the ROOTS Young Adults Shelter in the U District. With the success of the first unit, Real Change is funding 10 more. Confirmed sites so far include UHeights, Teen Feed, and the Tenants Union. See here for photos of the first unit and download the one-pager to learn more about the project or if you are interested in hosting a unit. Read about the project in this Real Change article and in Landscape Architecture Magazine.

To submit a request for support, please email us at urbancommons [at] uw.edu.

Bottom-Up Resilience Webinar Series – In July, the Pacific Rim Community Design Network will partner with APRU Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Hub to host a two-part webinar series to examine bottom-up resilience during and beyond COVID-19, featuring community organizers and scholars from Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Manila, Melbourne, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei, and Tokyo. Please register and join us.

Additionally, the following articles were published since late March on urgent responses as well as planning for cities and communities beyond the COVID-19 pandemic:

New Solutions Needed for COVID-19 and Racial Injustice. The Dirt, June 26, 2020.

Rethinking the needs of a post-pandemic city. The Seattle Times, May 4, 2020.

A Teachable Moment. Field Notes on Pandemic Teaching: 2. Places Journal, April 2020.

Social Disparities Beyond Social Distancing: Public Space, in the Mirror of COVID-19. Medium, March 31, 2020.


(Photo: Storefront mural by Tori Shao.)