Image:

Michel Desvigne

Bordeaux River, 2000

Resilient Urbanisms

From Green Infrastructure to Landscape Urbanism to Infrastructural Resilience, each framework regards ecology as a primary tenet.  An ecological system’s resilience is built up over time, yet can be undone in a brief moment.  

Resilience thinking provides new and useful concepts to deal with the interconnectedness of humans and their environment, the uncertainty and unpredictability of events at larger temporal and spatial scales that must be regarded when designing upon the landscape, and, to a larger degree, sustainability.

 

This blog intends to share diverse perspectives on these evolving frameworks and to explore solutions to better understand resilient urbanisms and promote designs which recognize the inconstancy of the human-affected landscape.

The following includes excerpts from an article by CARL FOLKE:

 

Resilience theory, first introduced by Canadian ecologist C.S. Holling in 1973, begins with two radical premises. The first is that humans and nature are strongly coupled and co-evolving, and should therefore be conceived of as one “social-ecological” system. The second is that the long-held assumption that systems respond to change in a linear, predictable fashion is simply wrong. According to resilience thinking, systems are in constant flux; they are highly unpredictable and self-organizing, with feedbacks across time and space. In the jargon of theorists, they are complex adaptive systems, exhibiting the hallmarks of complexity.

 

A key feature of complex adaptive systems is that they can settle into a number of different equilibria. A lake, for example, will stabilize in either an oxygen-rich, clear state or algae-dominated, murky one. A financial market can float on a housing bubble or settle into a basin of recession. Historically, we’ve tended to view the transition between such states as gradual. But there is increasing evidence that systems often don’t respond to change that way: The clear lake seems hardly affected by fertilizer runoff until a critical threshold is passed, at which point the water abruptly goes turbid.

 

Resilience science focuses on these sorts of tipping points. It looks at gradual stresses, such as climate change, as well as chance events—things like storms, fires, even stock market crashes—that can tip a system into another equilibrium state from which it is difficult, if not impossible, to recover. How much shock can a system absorb before it transforms into something fundamentally different? 

 

Resilience consists of three features—persistence, adaptability, and transformability—each interacting at multiple scales concurrently. The concept of resilience refutes oudated notions “sustainability”: Instead of embracing stasis, resilience emphasizes volatility, flexibility, and de-centralization. Change, from a resilience perspective, has the potential to create opportunity for design - providing avenues toward innovation, particularly within interdisciplinary knowledge sharing. As Holling himself once put it, there is “no sacred balance” in nature. That is a very dangerous idea.