Picturing urban resilience seen from the citizen point of view

My photographic work should be seen as an experimental attempt showing that photography may be used as a pedagogic tool to better inform non-expert citizens on the meaning of urban resilience. This work is based on a technique using the special features of argentic photographic paper. Pictures will darken in time according to their light exposure, as a metaphoric translation of one of the fundamentals of urban resilience: moving from one state of balance to another one depending on a hazard occurrence (symbolized by the light in my work). As a non-expert citizen myself, I have the easy part: underscoring the questioning raised by urban resilience through my pictures. I leave to experts the difficult task to provide answers. To ease the pedagogic working process, I have considered the three main dimensions on which urban resilience may impact urban citizen lives, though such breaking down is somewhat questionable: the sociological, environmental and urbanistic dimensions, keeping in mind the following guidelines: which hazard are we talking about? Is the state of balance that prevailed before the perturbation unchanged? How manageable is the assumed level of resilience?

Next to the tab “photographic works”, “urban moments” is a series of pictures where the aesthetic sense prevails over pedagogy. Still, the relation with urban resilience is assertive, be it through the chosen theme, the intrinsic sense of the shooting and the diptych approach. Both “photographic works” and “urban moments” should be seen complementary one to the other, balancing objective and subjective considerations.

An urban space is resilient when it can integrate the occurence of hazards without compromising its operations. But can we bounce forward after a disaster when everything condemns us to bounce back? How is urban resilience related to sustainability? Is vulnerability really opposed to resilience?

There is a huge ambiguity on the definition of urban resilience. In 2015, Sara Meerow (1), University of Michigan, reviewed 25 different definitions of urban resilience, all of them published by editors of “recognized” journals. None of them appeared satisfactory. Sara Meerow gave the 26th. Where is the ambiguity coming from? At the end, there is no definition needed if we do not agree on the prerequisites and on the ultimate objective backing the concept.

The prerequisites have been recalled many times by different authors: we cannot separate people of their urban environment as both of them belong to the same process: the urban way of life. Understanding the prerequisites is key as it enables to understand how our contemporary thinking can articulate the relations between people and their environment, the latter word understood as the space, the location, the networks and their functions. An urban space is a territory where different balances of powers are potentially conflictual one to each other as they do not have the same priorities (economical, sociological, ecological, etc…). Urban resilience is located at the interface of those different forces in order to regulate them.(2). And this with a one and unique objective: The well-being and well-living of people together.(3)(4). As important as the prerequisites and the objective, the philosophy framing the concept is crucial: the capability to “think resilient”. Nothing can be taken as granted, referring to what C. Folke wrote in 2002 about “the likelihood of sustainability in a changing world where surprise is likely”.

Yky, yky@resi-city.com, January 2018.


(1) S. Meerow & al, Defining urban resilience: A review, Elsevier, 2015

(2) C. Lopez, 2008, C. Villar-M. David, 2014

(3) Human and social properties make cities resilient over time / Chelleri-2012

(4) “Cities are not only the places in which we live and work and play, but also a demonstration of our ultimate faith in the human project, and in each other”, concluding and last sentence of The Resilient City, LJ Vale & TJ Campanella, 2005



Impairment at D0
Impairment at D+