What is Urban Resilience?
“Over the past two decades the concept of resilience, and more specifically urban resilience, has gained increasing attention within the urban planning and development arena.
Urban resilience is typically understood as the capacity of cities to bounce back or even bounce forward from a disturbance or crisis event. Yet despite its ubiquity, it is often considered to be a fuzzy concept, with varying applications across disciplines and national borders. This perceived lack of clarity around the use of the concept in practice or on the ground has led to calls for a more thorough examination of its potential utility in the urban context.
Over the past number of years, FAC has been extensively involved in the urban resilience research field, tackling similar questions around the applicability and value of the resilience concept within city planning and development processes. We have coordinated two EU-funded Pan-European projects (HARMONISE and RESILENS) that focused on the resilience of large-scale urban infrastructure projects, and partnered on a further eight projects exploring a range of related themes.
The multi-country focus of these projects has enabled us to develop a deeper understanding of the context-specific opportunities and challenges facing urban decision-makers in seeking to plan and develop more resilient cities. One of the core findings emerging from these projects has been the lack of a mutually accepted definition of resilience across Europe, with some partner countries reporting that there is no direct translation in their native language.
These projects have also shed light on the more traditional approach to urban resilience enhancement across much of Europe, where there is a tendency to approach particular buildings, structures or local areas in a relatively fragmented and ad-hoc manner. Moreover, some urban planning and design approaches directed at crime prevention and mitigating terrorist attacks have raised questions about the extent to which cities can implement protective policies without losing their openness, pluralism and vibrancy. A number of scholars have referred to the securitisation or militarisation of cities in recent years, and particularly in the immediate post-9/11 period.
FAC, through its research in this space, advocates for a more holistic approach to urban resilience enhancement – one which see urban planners as part of a more integrated urban management nexus. Efforts to enhance resilience must be proactive, rather than reactive – bringing together all components of the resilience cycle (mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery). This ultimately will necessitate the development of more educational and training resources for urban decision makers.
The HARMONISE and RESILENS projects have both attempted to address this, by developing online platforms to aid this process. In HARMONISE, the platform enables stakeholders with varying educational and professional backgrounds to contribute and collaborate in the planning, design, construction, operation and management of urban built infrastructure. It acts as a ‘one stop shop’ for resilience information and guidance, providing a comprehensive selection of the most relevant information on urban resilience, selected by the top European experts in this field and supported with the real life knowledge created by several case studies. The platform is structured as a step-by-step process which seeks to emphasise to the user that resilience is a process rather than an end point, and as such encourages continuous reviews of plans over time.”
Aoife Doyle, PhD Researcher
- To find out more about FAC’s EU projects, please see the RESEARCH section of our website.