Pursuing Resilient Urban Design

Equitably merging green and gray strategies

Authored by: Zachary Lamb , Lawrence J. Vale

The New Companion to Urban Design

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138302129
eBook ISBN: 9780203731932
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter addresses two related questions: Can urban design provide a domain for concrete projects, processes, and practices that ground the abstract concept of resilience, creating urban places that are more just and environmentally sound? Similarly, can a refined focus on resilience allow scholars and practitioners of urban design to synthesize social, ecological, and aesthetic analysis through disciplinary practices that are more flexible and more attuned to the concerns of the most vulnerable members of urban societies? In addressing these questions, the chapter outlines parallel “green” and “gray” traditions of “resilience” and “urban design,” and draws examples from emblematic projects in cities of the Global North and Global South, focusing on three river delta cities: New Orleans, Rotterdam, and Dhaka. We outline a series of principles intended to simultaneously ground resilience and refocus urban design on the creation of just and environmentally sound places. Resilient urban design, we conclude, entails (1) pursuing geophysical and social resilience simultaneously; (2) integrating protective infrastructure with the public space and built fabric of cities; (3) recognizing the varied and shifting positions of state and non-state actors in different settings; and (4) balancing the need for control and flexibility in the form and function of urban development.

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