VOL: 11 NO: 1  20-35  2014-1


Challenges and opportunities for building urban resilience




* Politecnico di Milano, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies Via Bonardi 3, 20133 Milano, ITALY & University of Kiel, Institute for Ecosystem Research Olshausenstrasse 75, 24118 Kiel, GERMANY
** University College London, Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UNITED KINGDOM


Received: June 2013     Final Acceptance: October 2013






In science, the resilience concept has increasingly been embraced as a framework for disaster-related work. As a result, policy supports ‘resilient communities’ programs. The current transition from a ‘descriptive’ scientific concept explaining the state of a system to a ‘normative’ agenda applied by local authorities faces various challenges. To contribute to the A|Z journal’s special issue on Cities at Risk, this paper argues that it is crucial to address and explain these challenges in order to effectively increase resilience. It examines some theoretical foundations and underlying assumptions of the resilience concept and highlights some challenges associated with practical application in urban locations. Most importantly, the chronic needs and root causes of vulnerability will remain unsolved and will continue to generate vulnerable groups as long as efforts to increase resilience ignore the preconditions and root causes of (what is effectively social and political) vulnerability. Building resilience in cities provides opportunities to address under-studied elements, to gain understanding about the historical and socio-political processes that create and maintain social vulnerabilities, and to develop designs capable of identifying options for intervention and leverage points that can move communities toward less vulnerable development pathways.


Keywords: Resilience, vulnerability, cities, urban design, development, spatial planning.

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