Melos Shtaloja

Melos Shtaloja


Jason Alread


College of Design, Construction, and Planning







Academic Awards

UF Honors College, Davis Scholar



Research Interests

Public Health, Equity and the Built Environment

Hobbies and Interests

Research Project

Public Health, Designed: Observing and Creating Safe Public Spaces in Times of COVID-19 and Other Airborne Diseases

COVID-19 has changed the way we perceive public spaces. In the early days of the pandemic, shared spaces were made less accessible, less inviting, and less collaborative. Although this paradigm had started shifting as we acknowledged the significance of outdoor public spaces and the activities and social interactions they support, many spaces are yet to be made safe for use. Some spaces are inaccessible to those affected by disabilities, some hazardous to our health due to a lack of physical distancing and, in some cases, public space might not be available at all. We argue that the involvement of urban planning in the public health discourse is key during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the best interest of advancing future health outcomes and sustaining good public health. We argue that public space must be protected and improved in order to keep up with public health needs, and that flexibility and adaptability of these spaces are their strongest assets. We aim to inspect the plausibility of creating public spaces capable of adaptation when a public health crisis requires it. Our goal is to explore and clarify the relation between open-air public spaces and the transmission of airborne diseases (i.e. COVID-19). We will use Gainesville as our case study, differentiating between safe and unsafe public spaces through COVID-19 data and observation of the circulation of people on site. Further, we will analyze historical visual and urban data of Gainesville, engaging with the community and its organizers. We will propose necessary improvements in physical distancing and accessibility of public spaces in order to create an equitable distribution of safe space that promotes physical and mental well-being of citizens. Elaborating on the paradigm shift brought by the pandemic, we will emphasize on the importance of inclusion of urban planning as an aspect of the One Health, holistic health philosophy. We aim to derive solid proposals for health-promoting public spaces in times of airborne diseases that can be applied in diverse environments, and propose them both in written and visual formats for clear understanding and engagement.