Public space and public life during Covid 19

Covid 19 and the measures taken against its spread (social distancing, lockdown, etc.) had a massive impact on public life and public space worldwide. Previously overcrowded traffic routes were empty. In some cases, open spaces could not be used at all, or only under certain conditions.

Noise, vehicles and crowds seemed to be driven out of the vibrating urban spaces. Formerly busy shopping streets seemed to have been torn away from their original purpose and offered a partially helpless, almost desolate display. Nature came back: the air became better, the twittering of birds was suddenly audible everywhere. With the relaxation of the measures, the public space was gradually reclaimed by the people and appreciated again. Parks, benches, public places received conscious attention and use. The hunger for – albeit distanced – human encounters and life outside the home became widespread.

The people discovered your city again and partly new. Walking and cycling were dominant as forms of mobility. Sports and leisure activities suddenly dominated the scene in parks and open spaces. In some cities, this experience has led citizens to demand more freedom. For example, the conversion of former car parking spaces into open spaces for outdoor catering was suddenly completely logical for a liveable city centre and no longer a major conflict.


partner event
Dr. Peter Kurz
  • The Covid-19 pandemic had the effect of a magnifying glass or an accelerator, making existing problems visible and accelerating processes that would otherwise have progressed more slowly.

  • The lesson to be learned from Covid-19 is that our habits and infrastructure are more adaptable, than we thought.

  • The transformation of former car parking lots into open spaces for outdoor gastronomy or the implementation of pop-up cycle paths were no longer a major conflict.

  • Another example of our adaptability was the changeover to video conferencing in the city administration within just four weeks.

partner event
Dr. Tobias Vahlpahl
  • Public space fulfils different functions in the neighbourhoods depending on the initial situation and socio-structural composition.

  • During the pandemic, new communication channels taking into account linguistic and socio-economic conditions enabled a target group-oriented approach.

  • Musicians and actors from the National Theatre gave street performances, multilingual information posters were put up on the front doors and multilingual telephone services were set up.

  • The cultural offers brought directly into the districts proved to be an effective means of actively contacting the residents and asking them about their well-being.

partner event
Prof. Elke Pahl-Weber
  • During the Covid-19 pandemic it has been impressively observed that citizens played a formative role and shaped the public space according to their needs.

  • Cities often perceive participation “top-down”, but could rather integrate more opportunities for citizens to participate in shaping public life as “co-creation” in existing processes.

  • Urban Design Thinking is a cooperative process at eye level and thus differs from the classical possibilities of participation of citizens (empathizing).

  • They could make greater use of Urban Design Thinking as an instrument, which has already proven its worth in pilot projects (Migrants4Cities) as an innovative participation format.

partner event
Rasmus Duong-Grunnet
  • Our study on Public Space and Public Life during Covid-19 showed more and also longer stays in public space of districts close to the inner-city, while activities in the city centre declined.

  • Local places that already offer a public non-commercial activity were even more popular than before.

  • More children and older people were in public places than before. The proportion of women in public spaces also increased in previously male-dominated spaces.

  • Cities should check their ability to learn from citizens’ interest in and claim to use public space. The ability to commit themselves to it is central for shaping cities in the future.

partner event
Jens Loff
  • In the course of the Covid pandemic political decision-making based on objective data is increasingly necessary to find factual and evidence-based solutions.

  • Cities should keep in mind the newly gained perception, ownership and appreciation of public space and the associated increased identification with districts and cities in the population Post-Covid-19.

  • This existing potential to involve citizens in shaping public life in their district has rarely been so high. This is the biggest change after Covid-19 and many stakeholders are already making use of it.


Links & News









  • July 15
    Public space and public life during Covid 19
  • Virtual UTC online

5 - minutes
Welcome Address

Opening of the virtual UTC Mannheim

20 - minutes
Public Space & Public Life during COVID 19

For further information visit

10 - minutes
Project M4C

Integrated Planning and Design Solutions through Design Thinking in Mannheim

For further information visit

5 - minutes
Mannheim's Quarter districts during the lockdown

50 - minutes

Question will be collected during the presentations

    • • Moderated by Dr. Simone Burel, CEO of LUB GmbH

Latest news


Here you will find the transmissions from the livestream from 25th and 26th October.

Take a look at our video archive of the live streams from the Council Hall in Mannheim as well as the statements by Lord Mayor Dr. Peter Kurz, Prof. Dr. Laura Marie Edinger-Schons from the University of Mannheim, Anthony F. Pipa from the SDG Alliance, Andrew Kelly from the Bristol Festival of Ideas and Rolf Stahlhofen from water is right.





Be there on 24.10. -26.10.2019 and help shape Mannheim’s future!

The implementation of the 17 UN sustainability goals through the Mannheim mission statement 2030 requires partnerships. How can we contribute to this? What do we need? How must any existing offers be changed so that partnerships or a better, more sustainable use are possible? We want to discuss all this with you and come to concrete solutions and partnerships.

Since the resolution of the Agenda 2030 and start of the World Urban Campaign (WUC) Mannheim is involved in the process of intertwining of global and local politics. With the first Urban Thinkers Campus “Urban Citizenship in a Nomadic World” in 2016 and its concluding “Mannheim Manifesto”, which figured on the role of citizenship and the role of cities, Mannheim joined the discussion of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) at the UN Habitat III Conference in Quito.

We discussed the results of this conference as well as the local implementation of the NUA and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the Mannheim residents and stakeholders at the second UTC in 2017. The results were presented in several sessions at the World Urban Forum (WUF) 9 in Kuala Lumpur in 2018. We took the input of the WUF 9 back to Mannheim residents. Hereafter they were developing the Mannheim 2030 mission statement in a broad participation process based on the SDGs. For more information, please visit

Now that we have a mission statement, the next step is to implement it. In order to achieve our goals, cooperation are crucial. The aim of the UTC 2019 is to create a variety of concrete cooperation forms and projects for implementing the mission statement and therefore the SDGs in Mannheim and the region. The private sector deserves special mention here. As a first step, we had a Global Strategic Dialogue (GSD) “Accelerating the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals in cities: the new role of the private sector” in cooperation with UN Habitat in March 2019. However, cooperation with other cities and regions should not be neglected either.

The Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) will take place for the third time in Mannheim as part of innomake!, the 1st Innovation Festival from 24 to 26 October.


For sustainable development.

You can find further information at: Mission Statement Process Mannheim 2030 and Mission Statement Mannheim 2030


partner event
Festival of Deeds

Climate protection, education, mobility, energy or sustainable consumption are topics that move you. They are also the themes of the 17 sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015.

Many local initiatives and the City of Mannheim are committed to the Agenda 2030 with its 17 goals.

For further information visit

partner event

At the Climathon you have the opportunity to develop prototypes for digital solutions together as a team. This is done with the help of public and non-public environmental data as well as data from the economy, which we make available to you.

For further information visit

partner event
One another action days

The aim of the “action days”, with the motto “learning from each other and actively working together”, is to bring together the commitment in Mannheim and to strengthen the cooperation of the people living here. Many institutions, organisations and associations are invited to participate actively in these action days.

For further information visit

partner event
Enjoy Jazz

Enjoy Jazz is a jazz festival that is an integral part of the festival landscape. It has established itself as one of the most important jazz festivals in the world. It is a lively festival that is primarily committed to the joy of great performances and the enjoyment of music. The joy of jazz is the motto of the festival – to enjoy also means to take time for the individual artists, so that Enjoy Jazz usually organizes only one concert per evening and per city.

For further information visit

partner event
Future for Internet

The citizens’ workshop will take place in the framework of the Global Citizens’ Dialogue, which is organised throughout Europe. It is organised by the City of Mannheim in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Economics, the French Missions Publiques Foundation and a group of international partners.

The dialogue will focus on questions relating to the further development of the Internet and the associated changes in people’s lives both nationally and internationally. The aim of the event is to involve citizens in the global discussion about the future of the Internet.

partner event

More than 800 artists and creative groups take part in the art and culture festival “Nachtwandel”. The programme, which includes readings, dance performances, exhibitions and musical events as well as film, photo and performance performances, offers visitors a wide range of activities. More than 60 venues will be used for the night walk.

For further information visit

partner event
Social Economy Roadmap

Companies that are socially committed and operate sustainably, start-ups whose aim is the common good, the traditional welfare associations with their social activities, the new economy of sharing goods and services – all this belongs to the “social economy”. The roadmap shows around 20 public events on the subject of the social economy in Mannheim, which will be held until 2020. The goal is the European Social Economy Summit 2020 – the roadmap is the way to reach this giant event, which can take place in Mannheim.

For further information visit

partner event
FuSo Mannheim

FuSo Mannheim offers two different workshops, one emphasising the topic of cooperation and the other focusing on the education sector. This will take place under the motto “Strong together for the UN sustainability goals in the MRN – One Region. A Vision” will take place.

For further information visit

partner event
Next Entrepreneurs: Students change their city

A startup camp for children aged 12 and over who work in small groups on business ideas, try their hand at entrepreneurial thinking and work out innovative solutions to questions and current problems of the city of Mannheim in a cool atmosphere, using the example of the Mannheim Declaration for Living Together in Diversity.

For further information visit

partner event
Digital Changemakers Summit

The Digital Changemakers Summit is an event of the Corporate Social Responsibility Chair of the University of Mannheim.

For further information visit

partner event
Cooking and eating together – vegetarian, sustainable

Adolescents from the lower town and adjacent neighbourhoods cook after together with adults, taking into account various questions such as..:
What is healthy for us? Where does our food come from (CO2 footprint)? How are climate protection and nutrition related? How can we consume close to food?

With a joint cooking campaign, information and fun, we feed the topic of how we can act responsibly together at the local level with a view to our nutrition.

For further information visit


Urban Thinkers Campus T-Shirt


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