Pandemic and spatial development

spatial development

Pandemic and spatial development

In view of the current and future effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous aspects of spatial development must be revisited: socio-spatial injustices are intensifying, and inner cities and especially the retail sector are facing enormous challenges. Working from home is a new reality for a number of professions and mobility patterns are changing. The pandemic has posed major challenges for society. At the same time, the question arises as to what opportunities this offers for spatial development to support health.

The socio-spatial bubble of the Covid-19 pandemic. © Daniel Münderlein
The socio-spatial bubble of the Covid-19 pandemic. © Daniel Münderlein

In 2021, the ARL Photo Contest ‘Changing Times – Changing Spaces’ was dedicated to the pandemic.

> Click here to see the photos.

This thematic collection focuses on the pandemic in terms of its spatial impacts and conditions. It presents spatial analyses and approaches to action in various spheres of activity in the form of a themed bibliography ranging from internationally reviewed specialist articles to more practical planning perspectives, thereby making the current state of spatial science available quickly and in a clearly structured manner. 

Spatial development and planning

For spatial planning, the fundamental question is how to deal with the uncertain developments of a pandemic. What measures and strategies are being taken to contain the pandemic at various spatial levels? To what extent are these measures effective and appropriate?

Post-growth and socio-ecological transformation

The pandemic calls growth-oriented economic activities into question in several ways: containing the infection and protecting the population took precedence over economic goals. At the same time, economic systems proved to be heavily burdened and insufficiently resilient. What opportunities arise from these circumstances for a rethinking and a change of direction in the sense of a socio-ecological transformation?

  • Andreucci, M. B.; Marvuglia, A. (2021): Investigating, Implementing and Funding Regenerative Urban Design in a Post-COVID-19 Pandemic Built Environment: A Reading Through Selected UN Sustainable Development Goals and the European Green Deal. In: Andreucci, M. B.; Marvuglia, A.; Baltov, M.; Hansen, P. (Eds.): Rethinking Sustainability Towards a Regenerative Economy. Cham, 395-413. = Future City 15.
  • Bassens, D.; Kębłowski, W.; Lambert, D. (2020): Placing cities in the circular economy: neoliberal urbanism or spaces of socio-ecological transition? In: Urban Geography, 41 (6), 893-897. DOI:
  • iöw – Institut für ökologische Wirschaftsforschung; vöw – Vereinigung für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung; Wuppertal Institut: Blog Postwachstum – Blogbeiträge zur Corona-Krise.
  • Lamker, Ch. W.; Horlings, L. G.; Puerari, E. (2020): Communities and space – Post-Corona avenues for “new normals” in planning research. Commentary. In: Local Development & Society 1 (1), 83-89. DOI:
  • Lamker, Ch. W.; Schulze Dieckhoff, V. (2020): Post-growth planning for postcorona times. Reinventing a growth-independent planning in times of crisis. Discussion paper. Collective Post-Growth Planning. Groningen, Dortmund. DOI:
  • Mölders, T.; Levin-Keitel, M. (2021): Sustainable (Post-)Pandemic Cities? Contested Forms of Knowledge in Urban Transformation.
  • Rodríguez-Pose, A.; Burlina, C. (2021): Institutions and the uneven geography of the first wave of the covid-19 pandemic. Journal of Regional Science, 61 (4), 728-752. DOI:
  • Sparke, M.; Williams, O. D. (2022): Neoliberal disease: COVID-19, co-pathogenesis and global health insecurities. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 54 (1), 15-32. DOI:
  • Wiese, K.; Mayrhofer, J. (2020): Escaping the growth and jobs treadmill: a new policy agenda for post-coronavirus Europe. Brussels, European Environmental Bureau, European Youth Forum.
Society, socio-spatial processes and boundaries

The pandemic is a socio-spatial phenomenon: population groups and regions have been affected to varying degrees over time and socio-economic inequalities have intensified worldwide. At the same time, borders within the Schengen area were closed, while the administrative borders of health authorities and federal states assumed an unprecedented importance for everyday life.

Housing in urban and rural areas

When the reality of facing the impact of a highly infectious virus in densely inhabited cities became clear, the adoption of physical and social distancing and working from home led to the rediscovery of rural and suburban spaces and even a debate about the ‘end of the urban’. But can all this be empirically proven?

  • AbouKorin, S. A. A.; Han, H.; Mahran, M. G. N. (2021): Role of urban planning characteristics in forming pandemic resilient cities – Case study of Covid-19 impacts on European cities within England, Germany and Italy. In: Cities, 118, Art. 103324. DOI:
  • Alexandri, G.; Janoschka, M. (2020): ‘Post-pandemic’ transnational gentrifications: A critical outlook. In: Urban Studies, 57 (15), 3202-3214. DOI:
  • Boterman, W. R. (2020). Urban‐rural polarisation in times of the corona outbreak? The early demographic and geographic patterns of the SARS‐CoV‐2 epidemic in the Netherlands. In: Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie, 111 (3), 513-529.
  • Cotella, G.; Vitale Brovarone, E. (2020): Questioning urbanisation models in the face of Covid-19. The crisis as a window of opportunity for inner areas. In: TeMA – Journal of Land Use Mobility and Environment. Special Issue, 105-118. DOI:
  • Cotella, G.; Vitale Brovarone, E. (2020): Rethinking urbanisation after COVID-19: what role for the EU cohesion policy? In: The Town Planning Review, 92 (3), 411-418. DOI:
  • Gallent, N.; Hamiduddin, I. (2021): COVID-19, second homes and the challenge for rural amenity areas. In:  Town Planning Review, 92 (3), 395-402. DOI:
  • Matheson, J.; Nathan, M.; Pickard, H.; Vanino, E. (2020): Why has coronavirus affected cities more than rural areas? In: Economics Observatory, 12 Jul 2020.
  • Nathan, M.; Overman, H. (2020): Will coronavirus cause a big city exodus? In: Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science, 47 (9), 1537-1542. DOI:
  • Rice, W. L.; Mateer, T. J.; Reigner, N.; Newman, P.; Lawhon, B.; Taff, B. D. (2020): Changes in recreational behaviors of outdoor enthusiasts during the COVID-19 pandemic: analysis across urban and rural communities. In: Journal of Urban Ecology, 6 (1), 1-7. DOI:
Open spaces and socio-ecological perspectives

Restricted movement and recreational opportunities during the pandemic, especially during the lockdowns, encouraged the discovery and use of nearby (urban) open spaces, especially for families. What opportunities do open spaces offer for social use, and what deficits can be identified?

  • da Schio, N.; Phillips, A.; Fransen, K. et al. (2021): The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the use of and attitudes towards urban forests and green spaces: Exploring the instigators of change in Belgium. In: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 65, Art. 127305. DOI:
  • Dempsey, N.; Dobson, J. (2021): Planning for sociable green spaces after COVID-19. In: Town Planning Review, 92 (2), 171-179. DOI:
  • Fischer, L. K.; Gopal, D. (2021): Streetscapes as Surrogate Greenspaces During COVID-19? In: Frontiers in Sustainable Cities, 3, Art. 710920. DOI:
  • Haase, D. (2021): COVID-19 pandemic observations as a trigger to reflect on urban forestry in European cities under climate change: Introducing nature-society-based solutions. In: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 64, Art. 127304. DOI:
  • Honey-Rosés, J.; Anguelovski, I.; Bohigas, J. et al. (2020): The Impact of COVID-19 on Public Space: A Review of the Emerging Questions. In: OSF Preprints, 21 Apr 2020. DOI:
  • Mell, I.; Whitten, M. (2021): Access to Nature in a Post Covid-19 World: Opportunities for Green Infrastructure Financing, Distribution and Equitability in Urban Planning. In: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18 (4), Art. 1527. DOI:
  • Pouso, S.; Borja, Á., Fleming, L. E. (2021): Contact with blue-green spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown beneficial for mental health. In: Science of The Total Environment, 756, Art. 143984. DOI:
  • Rios, C.; Neilson, A. L.; Menezes, I. (2021): COVID-19 and the desire of children to return to nature: Emotions in the face of environmental and intergenerational injustices. In: The Journal of Environmental Education, 52 (5), 335-346. DOI:
  • Ugolini, F.; Massetti, L.; Calaza-Martínez, P. et al. (2020): Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the use and perceptions of urban green space: An international exploratory study. In: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 56, Art. 126888. DOI:
  • Ugolini, F.; Massetti, L.; Pearlmutter, D.; Sanesi, G. (2021): Usage of urban green space and related feelings of deprivation during the COVID-19 lockdown: Lessons learned from an Italian case study. In: Land Use Policy, 105, Art. 105437. DOI:
  • Venter, Z. S.; Barton, D. N.; Gundersen, V.; Figari, H.; Nowell, M. (2020): Urban nature in a time of crisis: recreational use of green space increases during the COVID-19 outbreak in Oslo, Norway. In: Environmetal Research Letters, 15, Art. 104075. DOI:
Economy and finances

The spatial impact of the economic crisis brought about by the pandemic is particularly evident in city centres and in the retail sector: shop closures and vacant shops testify to the impact of lockdowns and have exacerbated the existing problems in city centres. This raises questions about their future use and design. In addition, public and private finances play an important role in addressing the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic.

  • Appel, A.; Hardaker, S. (2021): Strategies in Times of Pandemic Crisis – Retailers and Regional Resilience in Würzburg, Germany. In: Sustainability 2021, 13 (5), 2643. DOI:
  • Brada, J. C.; Gajewski, P.; Kutande, A. M. (2021): Economic resiliency and recovery, lessons from the financial crisis for the COVID-19 pandemic: A regional perspective from Central and Eastern Europe. In: International Review of Financial Analysis, 74, Art. 101658. DOI:
  • Flögel, F.; Gärtner, S. (2020): The COVID-19 pandemic and relationship banking in Germany: Will regional banks cushion an economic decline or is a banking crisis looming? In: Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie 111 (3), 18.
  • Immel, L.; Neumeier, F.; Peichl, A. (2021): The Unequal Consequences of the Covid-19 Pandemic: Evidence from a Large Representative German Population Survey. Munich. = CESifo Working Paper 9038.
  • Sokol, M.; Pataccini, L. (2022): Financialisation, regional economic development and the coronavirus crisis: a time for spatial monetary policy? In: Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 15 (1), 75-92. DOI:


The German version of this thematic collection can be accessed here and contains German-language literature in addition to the English-language literature listed here.


Mentioned articles

This thematic collection is structured in the form of a bibliogaphy and literature can be found directly under the respective headings.