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Toward an integrated theory of spatial morphology and resilient urban systems

Marcus, L. and J. Colding. (2014) Ecology and Society 19(4): 55.

Abstract:

We take the first step in the development of a new field of research with the aim of merging spatial morphology and resilience science. This involves a revisiting and reunderstanding of the meaning of sustainable urban form. We briefly describe the fields of resilience science and spatial morphology. Drawing on a selected set of propositions in both fields, we put urban form in the context of the adaptive renewal cycle, a dynamic framework model used in resilience science to capture the dynamics of complex adaptive systems, of which urban systems are prime examples. We discuss the insights generated in this endeavor, dealing with some key morphological aspects in relation to four key attributes of resilience, i.e., “change,” “diversity,” “self-organization,” and “learning.” We discuss and relate these to urban form and other social variables, with special attention paid to the “backloop phase” of the adaptive renewal cycle. We conclude by postulating ways in which resilience thinking could contribute to the development of a new research frontier for addressing designs for resilient urban social-ecological systems, and end by proposing three strategic areas of research in such a field.

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Keywords: adaptive renewal cycle; resilience theory; space syntax; spatial morphology; urban design

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