The Effect of COVID-19 Epidemic on Physical-Behavioral Characteristics of Public Spaces Case Study: Mashhad City

Document Type : Research Paper


1 PhD Student in Architecture, Mashhad Branch, Islamic Azad University, Mashhad, Iran

2 Assistant Professor of Architecture, Mashhad Branch, Islamic Azad University, Mashhad, Iran

3 Associate Professor, Department of Urban Planning, Mashhad Branch, Islamic Azad University, Mashhad, Iran



Extended Abstract
Regulations and communication bans in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 have changed the behavior of people in public spaces and have restricted the presence of people in public spaces. Therefore, people's way of life and activities have undergone forced changes and their meetings and social activities have stagnated. As a result, the dynamism, the sense of vitality, the social relations and the sense of security in public spaces have been lost, and as this situation continues, we will inevitably face a decrease in communication in all aspects of life. The city of Mashhad, despite the special socio-political and cultural spaces such as Shohada Square, Arg Street, etc., which is the destination of many pilgrims and tourists for various reasons, including pilgrimage; with the closure of shrines, parks, Restaurants, etc. has lost many collective activities in these spaces, and as a result, these spaces have become empty of the presence and gathering of people, and social events have also disappeared. This study, which aims to identify and evaluate the factors affected by the Covid-19 and their impact on the architecture of public spaces; with an emphasis on urban resilience and studying the short-term experience of the actions of governments and countries and also examining the background of similar conditions, has tried to identify the physical-behavioral factors of public spaces affected by the epidemic of Covid-19 and evaluate the effective measures on these factors and their importance in preventing the outbreak of the disease. Accordingly, the content of the research is divided into three general sections, namely: 1. design 2. perception, how to use and behave, which with an emphasis on sections one and two, it examines the design and use of space in times of crisis and concludes the discussion with an overview of the third section, namely inequality and deprivation. The background section, referring to the importance of public spaces from the past to the present, includes two main issues: 1. research on the impact of the disease crisis on public spaces and 2. current actions of governments and countries, which considering the consensus of all existing researches in the field of maintaining social distance and observing health protocols, finally seven  main effective indicators on public spaces were extracted, which include access, scale, social activities, warning elements, pollution, order and delimitation.
The research method of the present study is applied and with a quantitative-qualitative approach. The questions of questionnaire were designed based on the research background and considering the effective components resulting from the effect of Covid-19 on public spaces, with 41 items, based on five-point Likert scale. The validity of the questions was checked by five architecture-urban planning experts. Cronbach's alpha method was used in the reliability of the questionnaire. The selection of the statistical population is based on the purpose of the research and with emphasis on the views of philosophers in this field who believe that planning for such crisis conflicts should be examined from the perspective of experts in related fields such as public health, environmental psychology, architects and urban managers and by integrating those skills, it becomes a specialty. Accordingly, 84 people were selected from experts in the two fields of health-wellness and architecture-urban planning, based on non-random and judgmental sampling. A total of 41 effective factors were obtained which were evaluated by descriptive and analytical statistics. Descriptive statistics included frequency, mean, standard deviation, skewness and kurtosis coefficients and in inferential statistics, exploratory factor analysis technique was used. Bartlett test was used to ensure the accuracy of the data. The output of this test shows the chi-square statistic, the degree of freedom and the level of significance, which, if significant, means that there is a correlation between the variables related to a factor. In addition, RII index was exerted to calculate the percentage related to the frequency of responses.
Results and discussion
The 41 mentioned factors were classified in 17 categories, as two physical and behavioral indicators. The results of the evaluations indicate all the physical elements and characteristics and their related factors, i.e. scale, accessibility, warning signs and furniture, density, green space, pollution, traffic, transportation, security and distance; In the physical part and the factors related to social and individual activities and sensory reactions, setting rules and regulations, order, supportive activities, monitoring and activities based on health, are included in the behavioral part which are introduced as  the most important factors affecting public spaces in order to improve the city. Among the physical factors "green spaces in neighborhoods", "reduction of tourist traffic in public spaces" and "building density" and among the behavioral factors "monitoring of official activities", "population density and feeling of congestion" and "creating regular queues" are the most important from the opinion of respondents. In this study, although there was an overview of the effect of the crisis on public spaces in Mashhad, what researchers need is the management of spaces on a local scale. Therefore, this research can be used as a basis in future research on a smaller scale.
Public spaces are the focus and main pillar of keeping alive communications, interactions and exchanges in urban spaces, and attention to physical factors and the way people behave that will change due to pervasive crises affect the quality of these spaces. Therefore, this research is emphasis on accurate planning to face these spaces with pervasive crises, which are intended to increase the resilience of cities. On the other hand, it should be noted that the change in conditions that cause changes in the culture and habits of the people is not sudden and annoying, and such issues should be managed with the least harm to different segments of the people with different cultures, traditions and religions.


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