The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


CASA Working Paper 225: The Socially-Distanced City

The Socially-Distanced City: Speculation Through Simulation

CASA Working Paper 225

9 March 2021


To explore the impact of the pandemic on the form and function of cities, we propose to simulate the forces of centralisation and decentralisation for different urban futures which we encapsulate in the spatial interaction patterns linking places of work to residence. Because the current pandemic has distorted locational patterns in current cities so radically, we first build a hypothetical city on square grid that we then proceed to lock down in terms of the percentage of the population no longer at their traditional places of work but working from home. We explore various pictures under different levels of lockdown showing how non-locked down activity responds to the changing urban landscape. We add some randomness to provide a greater degree of diversity and this partially breaks the symmetry of the idealised system. We then introduce different patterns of deterrence which imply different average trip lengths exploring a range of forms from highly centralised to decentralised. We illustrate how the system moves to different forms as we release the lockdown and let the system react to the continually changing urban landscape which produces a series of highly concentrated equilibria. This generates different patterns that we then perturb by adding a degree of randomness in the size of locations and we conclude by scaling the city from its 11x11 grid to one of 41x41 more illustrative of the diversity and degree of asymmetry in large cities like London. To progress this approach, we need to adapt our hypothetical model to real cities and continue such speculation through simulation.

Author/s: Michael Batty

Download CASA Working Paper 225 (file size 4.6 MB, file format PDF)