A city’s resilience must be defined as more than its capacity to withstand and recover from disasters, earthquakes and the impacts of climate change. It must also develop the resilience to adapt to new technologies and meet the need for new types of development. The 21st century will witness the largest wave of urban growth ever. That will force cities worldwide to cope with an extraordinary increase in population, densification, and development. This mass migration will occur amid an increased volatility in weather patterns and a higher risk of natural disaster. How cities plan for this shift will determine whether they can leverage technology to foster an urban renaissance, or collapse from the pressure of too many people.
The outcome will be shaped by how and what we design. We can now build redundancy into urban systems without increasing waste. Just the opposite: by disaggregating the distribution of business, cultural institutions, and energy across the urban fabric, cities reduce the risk that damage to one area can wreak havoc on the whole. Each neighbourhood is self-sustaining but also backs up the other. Shared ownership and mixed-use development boost the overall vibrancy.
The key is not to fight the natural environment, but to adapt and even leverage it. We can harness wind, sun, water, and waste for new forms of energy. We can tap waterways for new forms of transportation while making coastal development less vulnerable to flooding or storms. Through data analytics, machine learning, and other technology, the relationship between the city and its environment becomes a conversation.
- Design that works with the natural environment, such as a system of elevated pergolas producing a “venturi” effect, literally drawing the air through even when there is no wind.
- An emphasis on mixed-use development with industry anchoring the economic axis.
- An integrated energy framework that harnesses a region’s natural strengths, creates passive systems for localised climate control, and treats waste as a resource.
Christchurch Recovery Plan
The plan for the recovery and redevelopment of Christchurch is a dramatic example of a strategy to deal with the aftermath of disaster. In 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake badly damaged Christchurch, killing 185 people while destroying vast sections of the city’s central business district, which had been weakened by an earthquake just six months earlier. Instead of wasting resources on an area that would take a long time to re-establish, efforts were consolidated and focused on developing a compressed district that could achieve density and viability relatively quickly. New anchor projects were created and connected to parts of the district. Destroyed areas were converted to green space. The Christchurch revived much of its business core before investment money and talent went elsewhere.