Like its slippery cousin ‘sustainability’, the word ‘resilience’ has been getting a lot of attention of late, and it now appears to be the new buzzword of choice for environmental designers. The reason is easy to see: a spate of recent natural disturbances has shown the fragility – the non-resilience – of human systems, including cities. But it’s one thing to coin a term for a desirable condition, and quite another to actually understand the structural dynamics behind it.

In this respect, we in the design professions have an unhappy history. While proficient at applying artistic metaphors to ...


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