New Book Explores Pandemic-Induced Land-Use Changes

Many land-use patterns that seem normal today were triggered by past pandemics. After cholera spread throughout Asia and Europe in the 19th century, investments in water infrastructure enabled the development of high-density, mixed-use urban spaces. And the tendency toward social distancing that emerged out of the 1918 flu pandemic led to investments in transportation infrastructure that precipitated the rise of the automobile and suburban sprawl.

The Past Pandemic World, a forthcoming book from Thomas Fisher, director of the Minnesota Design Center at the University of Minnesota and leadership chair of the International Geodesign Collaboration, explores not only how past pandemics have affected cities but also how the current COVID-19 pandemic is rebalancing both the physical and digital worlds. Fisher examines the transformative effects that remote, in-person, and hybrid versions of working, shopping, and learning have had on office, retail, and educational spaces and on transportation, land use, and outdoor areas. The current pandemic has given people more choices when it comes to what activities they’d prefer to do in person and what they would rather do online. That will change traffic patterns on roads, parking requirements near business centers, and interior space needs for all kinds of workplaces, among other things. And GIS will play a critical role in mapping these changes and helping to create a very different postpandemic world.

The Past Pandemic World is scheduled to be published by Routledge in May 2022.