Alumni Juan Fernández González and Ankit Gongal propose solution to slow down COVID-19 contagion in informal settlements

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a wide range of spatial interventions to slow down the spread of the virus, such as pedestrianization of wide streets. However, the spatial limitations of the narrow public circulation spaces in informal settlements, which house over one billion people around the world, make it impossible to practice physical distancing. The UN Economic and Social Council stated that “urgent response plans are needed to prepare for and respond to outbreaks [of COVID-19] in informal settlements and slums.”


Alumni Juan Fernández González (B.Sc. Arch. ’19) and Ankit Gongal (B.Sc. Arch. ’19) address the problem of COVID-19 contagion associated with pedestrian traffic in informal settlements. Their article Unidirectional Pedestrian Circulation: Physical Distancing in Informal Settlements proposes a flexible mathematical method for turning a planar circulation network of any size or complexity into a network of unidirectional lanes, making physical distancing possible in narrow circulation spaces by limiting face-to-face interactions. New notions and theorems about oriented graphs in graph theory are introduced. The method is inspired by the social behaviours characteristic of clusters of dwellings explored by Christopher Alexander in A Pattern Language. The difficulties of the method’s application are discussed, and a novel unidirectional tactile paving for the visually impaired is presented.


Buildings and Cities, an international open access journal, accepted the article’s abstract for development in August 2020, for the special edition Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health. The full paper will follow a double-blind peer review process, during which it will be decided if it is published or not. A PDF of the work in progress is now available at Preprints:


The authors would like to thank Salmaan Craig for his comments on an earlier draft of the paper and for suggesting Buildings and Cities as a venue, as well as Annmarie Adams, Theodora Vardouli and David M Covo for their encouragement.


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