Why designing the resilient city is a complex task

The coronavirus pandemic has put pressure on both urban and workplace planners to build more resilience into the system. The Healthy City Design International Congress 2020 will explore pathways out of crisis

Nowhere has the effects of the coronavirus pandemic been more keenly felt than in the  central business districts and urban neighbourhoods of our major world cities. The ability of cities to protect the health of their citizens, while keeping the economy running, has never been under greater scrutiny.

Urban planners, architects, workplace professionals, policymakers and public health experts now speak with one voice about the need to make our cities more resilient in the face of disruptive and far-reaching change. However, the whole concept of resilience, which is so important to the future of work, is multi-dimensional and complex; there are many aspects to consider.

‘The ability of  cities to protect their citizens has never been under greater scrutiny…’

To shed new light on how to design more resilient cities, a major virtual congress, the Healthy City Design International Congress will run from 30 November to 3 December 2020. WORKTECH Academy is a partner in the Congress which will feature new research and case studies delivered by experts from around the world.

Anticipating the future

In its narrowest sense, resilience means snapping back into shape after some adverse incident or effect. It implies the buoyancy and ability to recover an original position or form – but resilient cities are required to do more than that in the context of becoming healthier places to live and work. They must anticipate the future and have the capacity to adapt their health-inducing systems and designs accordingly.

Resilience as a term therefore takes on many different aspects when applied to the healthy city. There is the conventional healthcare resilience planning we see around medical emergencies, chief among them the prolonged coronavirus outbreak. There is also the challenge of environmental resilience that will protect city dwellers from floods and fires and other adverse conditions that are becoming increasingly common amid a growing sense of climate catastrophe.

‘Operational and technological resilience keeps workplaces running efficiently…’

But what about operational and technological resilience that keep cities running efficiently, with transport systems moving, workplaces connected to the global digital grid, workforces able to access work, and goods and services flowing around the urban realm unencumbered? In other words, what are the steps to keep the economic pulse of the city beating?

Social connection for all

Then there is social and community resilience. How can design strategies in the built environment create more social connection for people of all ages and abilities, improving air quality, decreasing isolation, reducing inequalities, delivering green spaces and providing safe, affordable housing to boost community wellbeing?

Connected to this, we also find the issue of food resilience: as life expectancy stalls among the poorest in both the US and UK, how can our cities maintain supplies of fresh, locally produced food that will fuel citizens and not contribute to their ill health?

The Healthy City Design International Congress will look at the resilient city from all of these angles – and more. It is organised by SALUS Global Knowledge Exchange in partnership with the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art.

WORKTECH Academy is partnering in a special strand of the Congress devoted to work and workplace. Contributors include architects Rogers Stirk Harbour, WSP, Stantec, the WELL Building Institute, the United Nations International Labour Office, and the Universities of Liverpool and Surrey. Subjects range from creativity and wellbeing at work to a safe return to the post Covid-19 office. There will also be a special People at Work summit on 3 December.

Highlights from 2019

The 2019 Healthy City Design International Congress also featured a work and workplace stream in partnership with WORKTECH Academy. You can review some of the presentations below.

Abbie Galvin of BVN Architecture on designing in the age of anxiety

Matthew Jessop of WSP on the role of landscape architecture in creating the biophilic workplace

Aditya Aachi of Cullinen Architects on the role of creative participation briefing in strategic workplace design

WORKTECH Academy director Professor Jeremy Myerson is the academic lead and convenor for the Healthy City Design International Congress 2020. Book for the event here. All members of WORKTECH Academy are guaranteed a 15 per cent discount. Use this special coupon code: HCD2020IWBI15DC
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