top of page

Urban Resilience

Rabia Çakıroğlu

Published Apr 14, 2021

How do people cope with the extraordinary events that turn out to be traumatic experiences of their life journeys, like diseases, severe losses, psychological traumas, disasters, or criminal events? In these cases, it has been observed that people develop various immune mechanisms that bring out problem-oriented, psychological and physiological and economical changes. Likewise, societies are developing various response mechanisms to keep homeostasis in the balance against extraordinary cases, which is called ‘resilience’.

Considering the multilayers of urban life in today's conditions, the factors that the mechanism must calculate are not only limited to physical disasters, but also to consider the different traumatic events on the social scale, like the terrorist attack series of September 11. Unfortunately, this event affected a lot of people who lost their relatives, but more importantly shook the trust mechanism of the whole society. The resilience mechanism that needs to be developed should be the product of a multi-layered, long-term and inclusive study, involving different disciplines like building science, urban design, urban sociology, landscape ecology, infrastructure systems, community psychology, and history. Flexibility level of urban mechanism and self-carrying capacity has a great impact on the resilience of an urban settlement.  Depending on the factors to be considered, we can categorize different types of resilience as;

1-Community Resilience

People's resilience, or social resilience is conceptualized as the capacity of citizens of the city and ability to categorize and organize their skills to create new sources, opportunities within their community ties and senses, and new innovative forms, as well as their capacity to act with solidarity in the aftermath of a disturbance. For example, if the city were a body, the citizens would be the blood that feeds, protects, and floats through the vessels. When the body gets injured, they would work as the regeneration mechanism. Besides, the immune capacity of the system can be determined by the citizen's reactions. It may either collapse into chaos, or regenerate into a further better level. If the citizens are aware of what is changing, they will be able estimate the circumstances and can adapt to these changes as soon as possible.

2. Structural Resilience

The resilience, in terms of structure, is related to the adaptability and flexibility of service systems, called “robustly-structures”. Robust infrastructure means that foundations maintain function over time, regardless of the stresses and shocks experienced. Robustness-orienting strategies focus on ''climate-proofing to a range of possible futures (Bree & Sluijs, 2014, p. 31).

The structural resilience will also protect urban landmarks and the spatial values of the city. The urban governmental mechanisms spend time and invest money to create and assume possible destructive scenarios which would lead to the destruction of their cities, and try to get prepared through projected recovery programs, including ways of developing adaptability and flexibility against different circumstances.

3. Ecological Resilience

In time, urban ecosystems have evolved parallel to the needs of the urban environment. Before the industrial revolution, the primary source of income was based on agriculture, and the cities were shaped accordingly. However, after industrialization, population growth and manufacture processes triggered the reinforced-concrete placement process. Their invasion on the available lands destroyed the ecological system, and an unprecedented rate of city growth destroyed diverse living spaces. When the size of destruction cannot be ignored like global warming, air pollution over cities, microclimate changes and extinction of urban spaces, it led people to take action against that. The differences between climates, humidity, soil typology, flora, and fauna make each case unique and specific. On the other hand, resilience identifies significant restructuring when a discomfort threshold is exceeded. The system stabilizes in a new regime from which it will not revert to the previous situation. Taking such assumptions into account has essential implications for durability-based risk assessment (Angeler, et al., 2018).

4. Economical Resilience

Providing economic resilience to the city is an insurance mechanism that addresses both citizens and cities, that sustains money fluidity which is a resistance mechanism against massive strokes. It works as a barrier during the money drought, or as a management system against over flooding. This insurance policy will bring psychological relief to a person's accumulations through time.

According to Stephane Hallegate’s (2015) research sponsored by World Bank, economic resilience briefly is; “Welfare impacts also depend on the ability of the economy to cope, recover, and reconstruct,   therefore to minimize aggregate consumption losses. This ability can be referred to as the macroeconomic resilience to natural disasters. Macroeconomic resilience has two components: instantaneous resilience; which is the ability to limit the magnitude of immediate production losses for a given amount of asset losses, and dynamic resilience which is the ability to reconstruct and recover.” (p.14)

Urban resilience is a multi-layered structure that includes ecology, sociology, economy, demography history, infrastructure, mobility, and technology. Each layer should be explored in its own way and should be viewed in its context in an integrated approach. City planners, governors, non-governmental organizations and citizens should be a part of the problem-solving mechanism to understand the situation properly and to predict and welcome the future. The participation of stakeholders makes the system balanced and sustainable, as who lives in a city makes it a city and would decide in the best possible way.

This paper is written within the requirements of MIM 507 Change of Cultural Environment course at Graduate Program in Architecture at TOBB ETU instructed by Dr. Elif Mıhçıoğlu.


Angeler, D. G., Allen, C. R., Garmestani, A., Pope, K. L., Twidwell, D., & Bundschuh, M. (2018). Resilience in Environmental Risk and Impact Assessment: Concepts and Measurement. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 101(5), 543–548. doi: 10.1007/s00128-018-2467-5.

Bree, L. V., & Sluijs, J. V. D. (2014). Background on Uncertainty Assessment Supporting Climate Adaptation Decision-Making. Adapting to an Uncertain Climate, 17–40. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-04876-5_2.

Hallegatte, S. (2015). The Indirect Cost of Natural Disasters and an Economic Definition of Macroeconomic Resilience. Policy Research Working Papers. doi: 10.1596/1813-9450-7357.

bottom of page