Socio-ecological resilience and urban design: defining the common ground and a way forward for practice

Alessandra Feliciotti

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The macro-trends revolving around urbanisation call for revising current approaches to urban development. In this context, the concept of resilience, originally developed in system ecology, has been deemed as a useful framework to address to these challenges and as an explanatory method to describe the complex dynamics regulating urban systems. However, while resilience science has gained importance in the academic debate in vulnerability and risk management, urban planning and governance, it is only superficially investigated in the field of urban design. This paper aims at bridging the gap between urban design and socio-ecological resilience, advocating a resilience-based approach to the design of urban systems. Currently, existing literature addressing the relationship between urban design and resilience focuses on two main issues: 1) the need for a common ground upon which to build the bridge between socio-ecological resilience and urban design; 2) the need for a clear and solid conceptual framework for urban designers to foster resilience in the built environment. The paper formulates suggestions on how these issues could be addressed. These are: 1) the definition of urban morphology as the common ground upon which the bridge between resilience in system ecology and in urban design should be built, and 2), on this common ground, the definition of a research route to link approach to sustainable urban design to socio-ecological resilience. The paper concludes by presenting possible future research steps.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-8
Number of pages6
JournalTerra Spectra: Central European Journal of Spatial and Landscape Planning
Issue number1/2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • urbanisation
  • urban development
  • urban design
  • sustainability


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