In Public Space, Pandemic Patterns Emerge

Chuck Wolfe
1 min readAug 5, 2020
A prototypical pandemic pattern

If anyone doubted how concerns for public safety and associated protective rules guide human behavior, take a look at the seating configurations depicted above. In my mind, I hear Fred Kent, Kathy Madden, and other inheritors of William H. Whyte’s legacy.

“I told you so,” they say, as public spaces contextually reconfigure based on distancing-defined “pandemic patterns.”

However, at dusk, or on the weekends, just a short walk away, things change. The indoor-outdoor scenes like the Twickenham example below correlate with newly reported cases of the coronavirus around the world.

If nothing more, these two photographs are a study in contrasts, a “teaching moment” of the sort I’ve identified before. What, in the end, can we learn?

A pattern of risk?

Originally published at on August 5, 2020.



Chuck Wolfe

Charles R. Wolfe founded the Seeing Better Cities Group in Seattle and London to improve the conversation around how cities grow and evolve across the world.