Although pandemics have long been a tragic scourge on our cities, they’ve also forced architecture and city planning to evolve. The bubonic plague, which wiped out at least a third of Europe’s population in the 14th century, helped to inspire the radical urban improvements of the Renaissance. Cities cleared squalid and cramped living quarters, expanded their borders, developed early quarantine facilities, opened larger and less cluttered public spaces and deployed professionals with specialized expertise, from surveyors to architects.
Likewise, 18th century yellow fever and 19th century cholera and smallpox outbreaks helped to catalyze innovations like broad boulevards, citywide sewer systems, indoor plumbing, disease mapping and the early suburbs.