sustainability and resilience

socio-spatial perspective


Alenka Fikfak (ed)
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Architecture
Saja Kosanović (ed)
Faculty of Technical Sciences, University in Kosovska Mitrovica
Miha Konjar (ed)
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Architecture
Enrico Anguillari (ed)
IUAV Venice


book cover klabs series: sustainability and resilience socio-spatial perspective


Sustainability and resilience have become indispensable parts of the contemporary debate over the built environment. Although recognised as imperatives, the complexity and the variety of interpretations of sustainability and resilience have raised the necessity to again rethink their notion in the context of the built environment and to reframe the state-of-the-art body of knowledge. The book Sustainability and Resilience: Socio-Spatial Perspective so begins with the exploration of the broadest conceptual frame-of-reference of issues related to sustainability, and the re-establishment of the connection between the built environment and the conditions that are vital to its functioning, primarily in relation to energy, land use, climate, and economy. Subsequent discussion on resilience as a term, approach, and philosophy aims to conceptualise an interpretation of key resilience concepts, explain relationships and links among them, and propose the classification of resilience as applicable to the context of urban studies.

By studying the processes of transition of the built environment, the book then reveals a coherent formula of ‘thinking sustainability + resilience’ aimed at improving the ability to respond to disruptions and hazards while enhancing human and environmental welfare. The necessity to integrate the two approaches is further accented as a result of a deliberative discourse on the notions of ‘social sustainability’, ‘sustainable community’, and ‘socio-cultural resilience’. The potential of measuring sustainable development and urban sustainability on the basis of defined social, human, and, additionally, natural and economic values is presented though an overview of different wellknown indicators and the identification of a currently relevant tangible framework of sustainable development.

Correspondingly, the role of policies and governance is demonstrated on the case of climate-proof cities. In this way, the consideration of approaches to sustainability and resilience of the urban environment is rounded, and the focus of the book is shifted towards an urban/rural dichotomy and the sustainability prospects of identified forms-in-between, and, subsequently, towards the exploration of values, challenges, and the socio-cultural role in achieving sustainability for rural areas. In the final chapters, the book offers several peculiarised socio-spatial perspectives, from defining the path towards more resilient communities and sustainable spaces based on a shared wellbeing, to proposing the approach to define community resilience as an intentional action that aims to respond to, and influence, the course of social and economic change, to deliberating the notion of a ’healthy place’ and questioning its optimal scale in the built environment.

The study of sustainability and resilience in this book is concluded by drawing a parallel between environmental, economic, and social determinants of the built environment and the determinants that are relevant to human health and well-being.


  • Thinking Sustainability
    Shifting Back the ‘Shifting Baseline’
    Ognjen Šukalo

    The chapter explores the broadest conceptual frame-of-reference for issues related to sustainability, before any specific architectural design and urban planning solutions are considered. The main argument is that narrow disciplinary solutions cannot contribute very much if the overall systemic complexity is not grasped, greater continuum of required practices understood, and dominant narratives challenged. The text first explores the dim term ‘sustainability’, its connotations, use, and politics, and then proceeds to the corresponding notion by introducing a wide scope of complexity. The city and the building activity are viewed through the lenses of ecology and environmental history. Discussion further continues to present material, ecological, and systemic limitations and constraints regarding energy, land use (primarily agriculture), climate, and economy. The consideration of probabilities and scenarios in the context of different socio-environmental outcomes is illustrated using the example of Holmgren’s ‘future scenarios’, while solutions are structured through the hierarchy of technical, strategic, and cultural. Finally, the syndrome of the ‘shifting baseline’ (a propensity to view a current or recently known state of environment as normal) is discussed, and the regenerative power of overall design is speculated upon.


  • Shifting Forward
    Resilience Thinking in Out-of- Order Urban Systems
    Tijana Vujičić

    Complex interplay between spatial, social, economic, natural, political, and other factors made cities more vulnerable and less capable to respond to more frequent uncertainties, sudden upheavals, and disturbances that lead to different types of spatial dynamics such as urban sprawl, shrinkage, brownfield sites, degradation of built environment as a consequence of natural disasters, etc. In response to these multiscale disturbances, the paper introduces and elaborates upon resilience as a new term, approach, and philosophy. Based on a review of a large body of literature from the field of ecology, the paper presents origin, history and development of the concept, definition, types and key principles of the resilience approach, i.e. state-of-the-art knowledge and basic ideas about current matters related to the resilience. In the final part, the paper sets the conceptualisation of urban resilience by raising the assumption that the city is a complex adaptive urban system. Through conceptualisation, the paper gives an interpretation of key resilience concepts from the urban perspective, explains relationships and links among them, proposes classification of resilience applicable in the context of urban studies, and opens the key topics and questions for further research. The main objective of conceptualisation is not to provide ultimate definitions and interpretations, but to open new horizons, create fertile ground for dialogue among scientists and practitioners, as well as to encourage further research in the field of urban planning and design.


  • Thinking Sustainability + Resilience
    Built Environment in Transition
    Tijana Vujičić, Marija Stamenković

    The dynamics of societies and their living environments bring many expected and unexpected changes that need to be considered in order to achieve sustainable development. These changes, their prediction, and the mitigation of their negative impact, are related to the concept of resilience. Starting from the assumption that sustainability and resilience represent two different but complementary approaches, this work aims to clarify their notions and interrelations and to discuss their concurrent, systemic use in the processes of planning, designing and managing the built environment. The work initially studies the context of the built environment affected by sustainability and resilience frameworks, and reveals that there exist different scales to which these two approaches should be applied. Several interconnected disciplines are taken into consideration to present the notions of sustainability and resilience, their application in the context of the built environment and their significance for future development. Based on a comprehensive literature review, some possibilities for transitioning towards sustainability + resilience, i.e. towards improving the ability to respond to disruptions and hazards, and to enhance human and environmental welfare, are discussed.


  • About Socio-Cultural Sustainability and Resilience
    Alenka Fikfak, Saja Kosanović, Marija Stamenković, Tadej Glažar, Branislav Folić

    Sustainability and resilience have become an indispensable part of contemporary research discourse. In the literature, the notions of these two concepts are numerous and diverse. Approaches to sustainability and resilience thus range from philosophical, political, economic, psychological, ecological, etc., to more complex, systematic considerations, i.e. from broad theoretical or metaphorical views to particularised sets of proposed measures and actions. Although sustainability and resilience basically deal with human systems and social organisations, for which reason expressions like ‘sustainable community’ and ‘resilient community’ are often used in current studies, the social dimension of sustainability and resilience and the role of culture, however, persist as the least clarified and are without consensus. Recognising the challenge that, in a multitude of interpretations, can primarily be connected with a necessity to revisit the conceptualisation, this paper unfolds several fundamental questions: What is the relationship between environments, communities, sustainability, and resilience? What is social sustainability and what does social sustainability have to do with sustainable development? What are the concepts and characteristics of sustainable/resilient communities? What are the roles of individuals and of community as a whole? Finally, how do sustainability and resilience relate to each other within the socio-cultural dimension?

    The research based on the questions posed above, however, does not aim to find the only correct answers, but to assist in deepening the understanding of some of the most intricate and least illuminated topics in the fields of sustainability and resilience, thus bridging a knowledge gap regarding the socio-cultural implications of planning and design decisions for built environment subjected to shifting dynamics, irregular and unexpected changes, and growing uncertainty.


  • Indicators of Sustainable Development and the Urban Sustainability
    Anja Milovanović, Olivera Lekić

    One of the main challenges for sustainable development is to define a measurement system that would present a current state of the process and direct future actions. The response to this challenge has been provided through the indicators of sustainable development that are promoted by various organisations. This paper starts with a discussion regarding the justification for the need for indicators of sustainable development. Furthermore, the paper illustrates the evolution of various sets of globally applicable indicators, and gives an overview of some particular (composite) indicators of sustainable development. Subsequently, the paper discusses a capital-based approach to the definition of indicators, and considers the interrelations between the economic, environmental, and social spheres of sustainable development. In the last section, different well-known indicators of urban sustainability are presented and compared in the context of the chosen criteria. Finally, an overview of the current most relevant indicators of sustainable development is given, followed by a discussion regarding the further development and application of indicators.


  • Towards Climate Proof Cities
    Innovative Tools and Policies for Territorial Government
    Filippo Magni, Francesco Musco

    Climate change is one of the most relevant issues (both political and scientific) of the twenty-first century. If every crisis has brought to light new issues, new research paths, and sometimes even new solutions, then the challenges posed by climate change offer the opportunity for spatial planning to come back and reclaim its social usefulness to solve problems by redefining objectives, fields of investigation, and methodologies.

    The purpose of the chapter is to add a further element in this field of research by reconstructing the state-of-the-art scientific research and finding the limitations and potentialities of initiatives undertaken to date, as well as to synthesise a methodological and practical proposal in order to offer to public administration and local authorities a ‘practical way’ to make local climate policies and plans more effective. It therefore proposes an investigation process that moves away from the urgency and need to address some initial questions: what does planning or designing low carbon or climate-proof cities and territories mean? What are the obstacles to developing this kind of planning process? What are the governance implications on a local and transnational level, and what is the relationship between these two levels?

    Moving from a theoretical dimension to a more practical one involves different areas of public administration, and means developing innovative processes for the re-designing of instruments, priorities, actors, and organisational structures, thus leading to a new governance paradigm for cities and territories. This paradigm represents a new model to address the challenges of climate change towards climate proof cities.


  • Urban/Rural Dichotomy and the Forms-In-Between
    Alenka Fikfak, Saja Kosanović, Miha Konjar, Svetislav G Popović

    The urban/rural classification of spatial units aims to define and connect homogeneous units that have similar characteristics and are at an approximately equal level of development. Nevertheless, reviewed systems for urban/rural classification do not always include the criteria needed for aggregation of spatial units into homogeneous groups. To depict the scope and methodology of existing rural/urban divisions in more detail, this paper applies the latest version of the Eurostat classification approach called ‘Degree of Urbanisation’ on the example of the Republic of Slovenia. The work reveals some advantages and disadvantages of the tested methodology, mainly regarding local level treatment. Namely, the results show that the identification of urban and rural areas, based only on population or population density data, does not take into account other aspects of urbanity and rurality, and hence does not provide sufficient information for distinction at a local level. Therefore, identified homogenous classes do not fully capture spatial complexity and diversity. At the same time, the boundaries between the city and the countryside are increasingly disappearing because of the urbanisation and suburbanisation phenomena, thus additionally aggravating the delimitation of urban and rural areas. To deepen the understanding of ‘blended’ environments that are both urban and rural, i.e. that are neither only urban nor only rural, this paper distinguishes between several identified forms that can be categorised between the urban and the rural form: the state of urban rurality; blending processes at the urban edge, including urban-rural continuum; remote urbanity; and rural urbanity, and then unfolds discussion about the causes of their emergence, processes, flows and states occurring in their development, development outlooks, and sustainability potentials.


  • Sustainability of Rural Areas
    Exploring Values, Challenges, and Socio-Cultural Role
    Anja Milovanović, Olivera Lekić, Nebojša Gadžić

    In spite of the challenges that rural areas encounter today, their characteristics are of great importance globally. From food production to natural, social, and cultural values, and to distinctiveness and diversity, rural areas play an essential role in the sustainable development of global society, and therefore, the preservation of such areas is necessary. Starting from the consideration of the ‘rural’ concept, this paper identifies and describes the main values of rural areas, further discusses their major contemporary challenges, and finally explores the paths towards more sustainable rural environments, offered through the research work, policies, strategies, development plans, etc. The importance of the social dimension of rural sustainability has been recognised, and particular attention in the work has been assigned accordingly to the characteristics of rural communities. Having regarded that the major part of contemporary spatial research focuses on the urban environment, which is accompanied by decreased interest in rural studies, the intention is to contribute to the alleviation of this recognised imbalance.


  • A Shared Wellbeing
    A Path Toward More Resilient Communities and Sustainable Spaces
    Simone Devoti

    Today, the concept of sustainability is directly connected to quality of life and the perception of it. It is an issue that refers to the individual sphere and is directly related to living habits. The aporia of the traditional welfare system, as well as the growing complexity of social needs, has moved people toward new research strategies and ways to create an increase in wellbeing. New ideas about the creation and placement of residential dwellings in communities have emerged through the recognition that group community spaces can be used to strengthen relationships between citizens and their environment. On one hand, it means recognising the value of living close as a basis for sharing needs and resources. On the other, it offers the possibility of a rearticulated urban geography of local ‘lumps’ partially autonomous and partially connected. That is to say that it envisions new ways for people to be connected and autonomous at the same time, to enjoy the green space that private housing allows, while simultaneously enjoying the enriched community advantages that accompany dense urban living.


  • Community Resilience and Tourism Development
    The Case of Marginal Areas
    Viola Bertini

    The chapter discusses the concept of community resilience in relation to tourism, with a main focus on marginal areas. The aim here is to present how tourism development in marginal areas can contribute to the development of resilience within the local communities, ensuring their survival in the future. Few studies have been done on the relationship between resilience and tourism, and most of them have been focused on tourism as a mechanism of post-crisis recovery or as a means to enable those involved in the tourism sector to confront future shocks and reduce disaster risks.

    Here, a different approach is proposed, defining community resilience as an intentional action, aimed at responding to, and influencing, the course of social and economic change. According to this perspective, resilience is intended as a voluntary response to a slow change that is needed by marginal societies to shift from unstable economies to stable ones, preserving, in the context of this change, the local identity and thereby making it the central element of development.


  • Healthy Places in the Built Environment
    Alenka Fikfak, Olivera Lekić, Mirjana Miletić

    Although the impact of the built environment on human health is significant, architectural and urban design still does not take sufficient account of its relevance, due to the lack of interdisciplinary knowledge and collaboration of planners and designers with the healthcare workers, environmental health professionals, and other relevant experts and stakeholders who need to be included into planning and design processes. To assist in bridging the knowledge gap, this review paper first analyses the relationship between the built environment and human health, and then considers the concept of a ‘healthy place’. The impact of the built environment on human health is explained through a set of health-related determinants, whose spatial determination and description bring even closer the consideration of the right size of a ‘healthy place’ in the built environment. Health-related determinants of the built environment cannot be generalised, so planning and design must be adapted to the particularities of every individual place, in order to make it ‘healthy’. Despite the determination by definition and the approximation of its optimal scale, the concept of a ‘healthy place’ remains partially abstract, because of the individual differences among its users, and well as the lack of possibility to measure the levels of health and wellbeing in relation to the built environment. Therefore, this paper opens a new debate about the threshold of a healthy place, as well as about the upper limit of a healthy place (‘just healthy enough’ level) above which some negative social implications, such as gentrification, could occur.



  • climate change
  • community
  • health
  • resilience
  • resources
  • sustainability
  • sustainable development
  • wellbeing
  • Published

    1 July 2018


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    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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