Urban Commons Lab

COVID-19 Responses

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: A 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. View the recorded session here.

Seattle Street Sink — Since April, CBE 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 or our website to learn more about the project or if you are interested in hosting a unit. Visit us at the Seattle Design Festival (August 15-23, 2020). Read about the project in Real Change, Landscape Architecture Magazine, The Seattle Times, and The Stranger. Listen also to the interview with Tiffani McCoy of Real Change on KUOW’s Repair has it and watch the clip from Real Change.


Bottom-Up Resilience Webinar Series – In July 2020, the Pacific Rim Community Design Network partnered 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.

Digital Governance & Public Sphere Beyond COVID-19: A Roundtable Discussion with Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang — In December 2020, the UW Taiwan Studies Program hosted a roundtable discussion featuring Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s Digital Minister, in conversation with Hendrik Tieben (Chinese University of Hong Kong) and Kevin Hsu (Centre for Liveable Cities, Singapore), moderated by Jeff Hou.


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:

Civic Resilience and the COVID-19 Crisis in Urban Asia. Journal of Geographical Science. 2021

Other Spaces of Quarantine, Fabrications, January 3, 2021

Civic Resilience and the COVID-19 Crisis (Part 1 of 2). Medium, September 17, 2020

Civic Resilience and the COVID-19 Crisis (Part 2 of 2). Medium, September 17, 2020

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.