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About the Roundtable

Cities in the Time of Corona is a Virtual Roundtable event organized by City Center research center in Tel-Aviv University and IIT-Madras. 
The event aims to generate a dialogue between urban researchers and practitioners from both cities.
The objective of the Roundtable is to develop a collaborative research agenda that can help us understand the urban dynamics of Corona, the way cities might evolve and its implications to urban living. The outcome of this engagement is expected to be a series of ideas that can be converted into collaborative research proposals. 

The Roundtable includes two sessions on the 9th and 10th of September.  Each session consists of a series of short presentations by urban researchers from Israel and India. The two sessions are followed by a brief virtual brainstorming meeting between participants on September 16th, to explore potential collaborative opportunities between teams of researchers and practitioners.


Covid-19 has affected humankind the world over. As the world struggles to come to grips with this Pandemic, it is apparent that people living in cities have been the worst affected both in terms of health and livelihood as compared to those living in rural areas. This is hardly surprising given the high density of urban agglomerations, the efficacy of the spread of the virus and the sparser distribution of people in rural areas.  

Cities have attempted to battle back against the spread of the virus by launching a slew of measures – social distancing, work-from-home, enhancing healthcare infrastructure and so on. While this is likely to continue in the near future, it is also time to take stock of how cities are likely to respond in the medium and long-term as well as what life in our cities will be like going forward. These insights will have a significant bearing on infrastructure design and development, the role of technology in society, social stratification in cities and a variety of other areas.

The Roundtable is organized over a set of 5 main themes

  1. Complexity Theories of Cities (CTC). The last few decades have witnessed the emergence of CTC – a domain of research that applies the various theories of complexity to the study of cities, their dynamics, planning and design. While it is too early to comment in full on the COVID-19 event, already at this stage it can be observed, firstly, that the coronavirus has become the order parameter of urban life. Secondly, that the corona event exhibits many of the ingredients of a complex system: abrupt change, non-linearity, unpredictability, uncertainty and more. We will try to engage in discussions of how CTC can both inform the way cities might evolve and behave, but also how current observed dynamics can augment our understanding of cities as complex systems.

  2. Urban simulation models (USM). The study of cities was always associated with urban simulation models as tools to study the dynamics of cities and urbanism, as well as the space-time diffusion of various phenomena ranging from the diffusion of innovations to pandemics. New versions of USM based on Cellular Automata, Agent Based Modeling techniques and a host of related approaches followed the emergence of CTC. We propose to discuss how these models can help describe, predict and visualize post Covid-19 urban evolution. Smartification (smart ICT, AI, smart cities etc.) was a major force that gave rise to a highly connected global system of (smart) cities as well as to fast processes of urbanization. As we now know, these highly connected urban networks, fast growing and dense cities, were the engines of the fast space-time diffusion of the coronavirus all over the world. Can their impacts be integrated into USMs?

  3. Urban scaling and properties. Based on (big) data, recent empirical studies indicate that city size, pace of life and socio-economic-cultural compositions have an effect on inhabitants’ behavior and properties. In the context of Covid-19, some of these parameters are changing quite rapidly in the face of people working from home, reverse migration trends where migrant labour leave cities and so on. What then are the mutual effects and interrelations between the virus and different sizes and kinds of cities and socio-economic-ethnic groups within cities? These are questions that we hope to address.

  4. Governance. The criticality of the notion of ‘governance’ has gained greater importance due to recent trends in privatization, globalization and the emergence of the 3rd sector (or civil society) that in their turn entailed the weakening of the nation state particularly with respect to its delivery of essential (welfare) services. Better governance both within government (as evinced by coherent policy responses cutting across functional departments to combating Covid-19 and developing post-covid cities) as well as between state and non-state actors will be critical. Many governments have appeared ill-prepared to deal with the coronavirus. We will discuss what Governance in the post covid-19 era will look like in order to address these deficiencies.

  5. Democracy. the pandemic started in a period when in many countries democracy is in a state of crisis/instability, torn between two poles: “non-liberal democracy” in one pole and “non-democratic liberalism” on the other. According to complexity theory, in periods of instability an event such as the pandemic might push the pendulum strongly to one side. Is there evidence of this and what does this bode for the future?

*Images on the website are courtesy of Zydeaosika via Pexels.com & Rajesh Balouria via Pixabay.com