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Urban resilience: two diverging interpretations

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This paper uses two diverging interpretations of resilience to review and assess current UK policies for urban resilience. Both developed in scientific studies, the first interpretation is based on a mechanistic model of systems that can recover their original state after shocks, and the second is based on an evolutionary model enabling adaptation to disturbances. The literature review demonstrates that at present urban resilience is predominantly associated with the former. By contrast, only few policies and studies are inspired by the latter, although this is better suited to analyse dynamics of urban adaptation and manage cities accordingly. The contribution of this paper to an understanding of urban resilience is therefore twofold. First, an identification of the long-term consequences on the built environment associated with each model is provided, with the mechanical model ultimately hindering adaptation. Second, some approaches to generate effective responses to environmental and societal change are identified. Ultimately, this paper emphasises that the idea of a resilient city is fit for this age characterised by uncertainty, albeit it requires the recognition within planning practice that urban adaptation cannot be attained with current methodologies, and that much can be learned from theories on the resilience of ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-240
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability
Issue number3
Early online date7 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Urban_Resilience_two_diverging_interpretations

    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability on 7/1/15 available online:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 302 KB, PDF document

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