Resilient Edges: Exploring a Socio-Ecological Urban Design Approach in Metro Manila

Informal settlements, Manila, Phillipines

Informal settlements are constructed on edges between water and land. Photo: Dennis Diaz

With the notable uptick of natural disasters impacting densely-populated areas, attention to the subject of urban resilience has increased among ecologists, economists, engineers, social scientists, and designers. But despite an extraordinary cross-disciplinary interest in a single subject, the urban resilience discourse has remained largely siloed by discipline. This essay builds on concepts of resilience from ecology and social science and positions urban design (in itself at the intersection of architecture, planning, and landscape architecture) as uniquely situated for integrating and operationalizing various concepts of urban resilience. The authors propose a socio-ecological urban design approach that bridges natural, human, and spatial systems and is empirically grounded in historical research, field observations, and interviews with informal settler families (ISFs) living along the shoreline of Laguna de Bay in Metro Manila. The findings revealed that while many were affected by regular flooding and issues of housing security, these were not necessarily deciding factors when determining where to live. In response to programs which emphasize out-of-city relocation, authors developed three principles of urban resilience that instead spatially integrate formal and informal communities. 

Read the full article and download a PDF version at THE PLAN Journal.