Anna Bozza, Domenico Asprone, and Gaetano Manfredi
In the early 21st century, achieving the sustainability of urban environments while coping with increasingly occurring natural disasters is a very ambitious challenge for contemporary communities. In this context, urban resilience is a comprehensive objective that communities can follow to ensure future sustainable cities able to cope with the risks to which they are exposed.
Researchers have developed different definitions of resilience as this concept has been applied to diverse topics and issues in recent decades. Essentially, resilience is defined as the capability of a system to withstand major unexpected events and recover in a functional and efficient manner. When dealing with urban environments, the efficiency of the recovery can be related to multiple aspects, many of which are often hard to control. Mainly it is quantified in terms of the restoration of urban economy, population, and built form (Davoudi et al., 2012). In this article, engineering resilience is defined in relation to cities’ capability to be sustainable in the phase of an extreme event occurrence while reconfiguring their physical configuration. In this view, a city is resilient if it is sustainable in the occurrence of a hazardous event.
Accordingly, in an urban context, a wide range of nonhomogeneous factors and intrinsic dynamics have to be accounted for, which requires a multi-scale approach, from the single building level to the urban and, ultimately, the global environmental scale. As a consequence, cities can be understood as physical systems assessed through engineering metrics. Hence, the physical dimension represents a starting point from which to approach resilience. When shifting the focus from the single structure to the city scale, human behavior is revealed to be a critical factor because social actors behave and make choices every day in an unpredictable and unorganized manner, which affects city functioning. According to the ecosystem theory, urban complexity can be addressed through the ecosystem theory approach, which accounts for interrelations between physical and human components.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science. Please check back later for the full article.
Spatial and urban planning are acknowledged as important tools and processes that influence exposure to natural and technical hazards and risk accumulation, as well as risk and vulnerability reduction. Even though natural hazards (such as floods) and technical hazards have been discussed in spatial and urban planning for quite some time in various countries and regions, only in a very few cities and regions has there been a sufficient and systematic approach to establish risk management as part of the planning task within the field of spatial planning and urban land-use planning. Risk management strategies in spatial and urban planning have often been strengthened after major crises, such as severe fires in the middle ages in cities in Europe, or after major floods or hurricanes in North America, Asia, and Latin America, as well as Europe and Africa. In this context, risk management is understood as a cluster of concrete and practical strategies and actions on how to handle risks, and in terms of spatial and urban planning, including those risks that are of spatial importance or significant with regard to planning processes.