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Is urban planning the right tool to improve Urban Resilience?

    In 2017, seventeen renowned experts gathered together to brainstorm about the expected conditions to develop urban planning into a large-scale and transformative tool (1). The title of the article, Conceptualizing Dimensions and Characteristics of Urban Resilience: Insights from a Co-Design Process, though conceptual, should not hinder anyone having interest in the complex process of implementing resilience to read the conclusions of the group. As one member said, planning is a form of storytelling and requires a persuasive narrative. Indeed, urban planning can be seen as the transmission belt conveying the decisions taken at a multi-stake level towards urban citizens. And good common sense enables to understand quickly that if urban planning is handled through a traditional risk management approach, the “well-living” and “well-being” improvement we are aiming at could be limited. As stated by the group, major divisions exist in viewing resilience as an action in response to identified risks and viewing resilience through a systemic evolutionary lens as a self-organization process. These differences and inconsistencies may render the concept unsuitable for framing and operationalizing planning and policy agendas.

    Amongst the different issues addressed in this article, one has been recalled by many authors. How can we find the right balance between a formal top-down risk management and a bottom-up “non-Euclidian” mode of thinking, while in the same time applying the right methodology to prioritize actions. On one side the recovery, on the other the adaptation? Two different approaches? Or two different mindsets as well?  But is the opposition really appropriate? The stakes are high: lives of people are threatened during natural disruptions. And as recalled by M. Toubin & Al (2), urban technical networks (water, energy, transportation, communication) are interconnected and managed by centralized administrations.

    Urban resilience is not only a complex concept on a global scale, it also reflects the growing social and cultural diversity of our own organizations. It recalls us the constraints of urban frameworks while, in the same time, a commitment to reconsider with an open mind the management of threats and challenges.

    In the below work, the geometrical abstraction inspired by the artist F. Morellet (3) is used to question the relation between objective technical constraints, subjectivity and ephemerality (*) .It here provides the matrix symbolizing the urban grid recurrently used in this blog. F. Morellet aimed at embodying mathematical rules to better circumvent them. “I have always been passionate about bringing order and disorder together, either the order producing or perturbing disorder, or the other way round”. Food for thoughts for urban resilience?

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