This is what great cities look like after residents are asked to quarantine at home. Cities celebrate density, diversity, activity and noise, all quelled in recent days because of the covid-19 pandemic. In normal times, cities beckon us to engage, to crowd, to be part of the thrum.
What is a metropolis without people? Photographs provide some understanding. Seattle’s Public Market absent a public. Mass transportation without masses. Miami Beach pristine, its dazzling sand stripped of sunbathers. Empty tour buses, abandoned train stations and, once thought unimaginable, Los Angeles devoid of congestion. It’s as though war had hit without the physical wreckage. These elegiac images, and the accompanying stories and videos, show us what silence looks like.
Broadway remains lit but shuttered. Grand Central Terminal, a cathedral of rail transport, is largely unused, as well as major thoroughfares, traversed by more pedestrians and bikes than cars. But nothing, not even a pandemic, can drive a Times Square Cookie Monster and Iron Man indoors.
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The typically sought-after bistro tables and chairs bordering Rittenhouse Square, the city’s verdant jewel, go untouched while the vaunted Curtis Institute of Music is quieted, absent of students. The Theatre of Living Arts on South Street sends a message in pure Philly-speak. The restored Met on North Broad is lit but closed, like a giant mausoleum.
The heartbreaking silence of a city at night, when nothing is open
Lush cherry blossoms go without the seasonal stampede of awe-smacked gawkers. Despite daily briefings and constant government negotiations, Pennsylvania Avenue resembles a massive gulch. Taxis idle outside Union Station, while the National Statuary Hall is swept clean, making the Capitol safe for still-at-work congressional staffers.
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A familiar landscape, now strange and emptied by the virus, as seen from above
Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, settled almost 200 years ago, has weathered almost everything the city has weathered: immigration, industrialization, poverty, a race riot, gentrification and national acclaim. Then the pandemic hit, and this district of handsome red-brick structures went quiet. But out of economic despair came a wellspring of charity and grace.
A Cincinnati neighborhood, beset by economic collapse and lifted by generosity
A full break from spring break: Revelers finally left the celebrated beaches, abandoning prime chaise real estate. Streets, running tracks and the News Cafe stools remain vacant during what would have been a busy season for this sun-soaked city.
A coruscating city on the move ceases moving. Tourist buses, garages and malls appear dead. Cars, which ordinarily choke the metropolis, remain parked at home.
In one of the nation’s most beautiful cities, the parks are empty, and the myriad magnificent hills are abandoned. The Golden Gate Bridge goes largely untraveled. A Pilates class goes virtual, streaming from a Marina District apartment.
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The city’s public market is a gustatory specter. With most businesses closed, Smith Cove cruise terminal is cleared of ships while the convention center fountain bubbles to the delight of zero conventioneers. What passes for nightlife: The band Cytrus streams a concert from the empty Nectar Lounge.
Other cities around the world
The world has been silenced and slowed by the massive, equal-opportunity pandemic. In Seoul, a shuttered restaurant wallows in an ordinarily bustling market. A lone woman sits on a bench in a historic Milan park. Banners and lanterns hang above an abandoned street in the Chinatown area of Yokohama, Japan.
Empty streets and disrupted lives: A world in the wake of coronavirus
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Design and development by Michael Johnson, Matthew Callahan and Joanne Lee; Photo editing by Chloe Coleman and Nick Kirkpatrick; Video editing by Jesse Mesner-Hage; Videos by Ashleigh Joplin, Joyce Koh, James Pace-Cornsilk, Ray Whitehouse, Nicholas Weissman, David Byars, Alfredo De Lara and Rob Ray; Editing by Zachary Pincus-Roth