Signposts to reflect/converse on the role of care, conviviality, community in the post-pandemic city

COVID-19 (warning) signs in public spaces are part of the "infrastructure" of the (post-)pandemic city and have become a symbol of the "new normal" that the pandemic has created. They serve to educate the public about the dangers associated with COVID-19 and to inform them about COVID-19 mitigation measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing, as well as the need to comply with them. They may vary with respect to their design - the fonts being used, the graphic representations they contain, etc. - but at a time when discipline is undoubtedly needed, these signs act as disciplinary tools, telling people how to behave, what to do and what not to do, in cities and regions around the world.

The idea of "Signs of/for our times" is not meant to dismiss or diminish the original messages - and purpose - of the COVID-19 (warning) signs that adorn public spaces worldwide. It is, however, an invitation to reflect on these still new but already firmly entrenched additions to the infrastructure of public space, which in many places are already so normal that they are hardly noticed, even though it is precisely their often excessive presence that expresses the exceptionality of present times.

Assuming that there will be a time when lockdowns, masks and social distancing are behind us, the project proposes a "second life" for said signs, by replacing their cues of caution and control with messages that encourage reflection on the meaning of care, community and conviviality in times of crisis and beyond, calling for the re-appropriation of public space and inviting citizens to share thoughts and ideas themselves. In doing so, "Signs of/for our time" aims to bring city dwellers together - physically in public space and figuratively in conversation about the role and relevance of - and their expectations of - the urban spaces that surround them and how to instil a greater sense of care, community and conviviality within them.

Paola Alfaro-d’Alençon, Natalie Heger, Johannes Novy, Nikolaus Podlaha
Paola Alfaro-d’Alençon, Natalie Heger, Johannes Novy, Nikolaus Podlaha
Location of project
Month/Year of project
05 / 2021
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