Opposing mitigation to adaptation ?

Examples of urban frames contributing to resilience are not to be found on every street corner… Whatever the hazard, and particularly in the case of climate change, most of the literature examines the social dimension of adaptation or mitigation. But very little is said about the design and architecture of the urban frame, though closely linked to the way inhabitants adapt their way of life. Some theories (1) explain that people may either adapt to their environment or adjust by changing the environment itself (which obviously looks difficult in flood-risk places). This being said, it is fair to assume that those choosing to stay would much probably expect safer conditions in their living area. And this is precisely what could be achieved in the city of Romorantin (France) with people having control over the consequences of water rising while other places in the neighborhood can be totally flooded. The height of sidewalks and pedestrians ways has been raised, the water pond has been integrated in an ecosystem, the area layout has become a tributary of the river. The choice of the architect has been to refuse a dike protection which is never guaranteed and may have disastrous consequences when the stream is too strong. Rather than mitigating the hazard, he made the choice of adaptation.

The example of Romorantin is representative of a general trend promoting the idea of “living with water”. What can be considered as positive in terms of resilient construction and architecture should not hinder a critical view in terms of reaching urban resilience fundamentals as explained by M.Gralepois/S. Rode (2). Redesigning at a local level may induce new urban challenges at the level of the city. Thinking global to act local may help to overcome a feeling of insularity when living in an elevated building for which no urban integration was priorly studied. On top, the preferred options for technical solutions against flooding may generate engineering ruptures and discontinuities that are not easily “appropriable” in particular by persons with disabilities and reduced mobility. To sum up, the way city blocks are articulated with the streets grid should be consistent with the idea we have of a resilient urban continuity between the private field and the public space.

Opposing mitigation to adaptation is often discussed. Situations may differ between cities threaten by coastal or by inland flooding. Both can be complementary to each other. But it is fair to recognize that physical protection has often been generalized and overestimated.

The below work underlines that choosing adaptation or mitigation is always questionable. While the water is fully integrated within the urban frame with raised houses, the protection by levees looks excessively unavoidable.

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

(1) https://www.be.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/upload/pdf/schools_and_engagement/resources/_notes/5A2_1.pdf

(2) https://www.openscience.fr/L-urbanisme-resilient-deforme-t-il-la-ville





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