Planning and Design for Adaptable Cities and Neighbourhoods

Cities and neighbourhoods are by their nature complex systems which change and adapt over time as a result of both top-down interventions and unpredictable, bottom-up, emergent processes of transformation. In the last several years advanced models have been elaborated to better understand and analyse this phenomena. However, implications on how to plan and design the development of cities and neighbourhoods for uncertain futures, including the concepts of flexibility and spontaneity, are still at their infancy and need to be expanded. Moreover, even though awareness on the relevance of this topic is now spreading within planners and designers communities, it has hardly penetrated into ordinary practices and theories.

With this colloquium series, the ILS wants to explore and search suitable strategies on how to plan and design cities and neighbourhoods to make them more adaptable and responsive to unpredictable changes.

Aiming at enriching the dialogue and discussion on adaptable cities and neighbourhoods, the colloquium will invite preeminent international scholars and researchers from this field of study.

Participation is free of charge. Registration is not required.

Organized by: Dr. Stefano Cozzolino and Prof. Dr. Jan Polivka

Talk 1: Towards Adaptive Cities? Reflections on the case of Hanoi (Vietnam)

8 October 2019, 5 pm
Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development (ILS), Brüderweg 22-24, Dortmund

Urban planning and design traditionally focus on the build city. However there is a discrepancy between how cities are build and how people live in them: “The build environment is one thing, how people live in them another” (Richard Sennett 2018, i). The adaptive city, as raised by this seminar could be understood in several ways. It could refer to the build urban environment as being adaptive to change (i.e. buildings resilient for change), it could also be understood as the non-build urban environment adaptive to change (i.e. the organizing system resilient to change). This lecture will conceptualize the adaptive city as being both: the build form of the city will be related to the anthropology of the city and vice versa.

Building on discourses that highlight how spatial engagement works through multiple levels, as a complex continuity between various spheres of life (political, socio-economic, cultural), this lecture will show that the key aspect for adaptive cities is the room available for negotiation that allow different actors to make decisions over the use and design of space in a particular context. Furthermore the lecture will make a side step to the East Asian context, which historically knows an organizing system – including planning – which due to its plural non-linear character seems more adaptive to change then conventional planning as we know it in Europe. Drawing upon empirical data collected in the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, this lecture provides hands-on insights in how such a non-linear – more complex – urban system works. In Hanoi the political-economic planning system allows everyday practices of ordinary citizens to gradually evolve into major transformation of the socio-political as spatial-cultural urban landscape.

The lecture will conclude with opening the debate by posing questions that arises from these insights. If we conceptualize the adaptive city as an open system in which different actors make decisions on multi-levels influenced by both the physical as non-physical environment, what then is the role of the urban planner or designer? Is the planning practice able to “plan” or “design” such an adaptive system, or is there a discrepancy in this aim, which demands a repositioning of the planning and design practice to allow adaptive cities to emerge?

Guest speaker: Stephanie Geertman

Stephanie Geertman works as senior researcher at ILS and at the research group Psychology for Sustainable Cities, at Amsterdam University of Applied Science. She studies urban everyday spatial politics and spatial practices of ordinary citizens. She studied this in three domains: informal housing (PhD, TU Eindhoven 2007), youth and public space (Postdoctoral fellow, INRS Montreal, 2013-2015), and the creative urban sector (independent, 2015-2016). Most of this work relies on empirical research in Vietnam where she worked (as international advisor for the UN, NGOs and practice) and resided for 12 years. Currently she focuses on the role of everyday urban politics in creating inclusive and climate neutral cities. At the ILS she coordinated a EU proposal to transition six urban neighbourhoods (in Europe, Latin America and Asia) to renewable energy.