Urban resilience and sustainability through and beyond crisis – evidence-based analysis and lessons learned from selected European cities

Ashraf M. Salama*, Madhavi P. Patil, Laura MacLean

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


Despite striving for resilience and a sustainable urban future, European cities face a multitude of crisis caused by both natural and human-induced risks. This paper asks two key questions: How have cities experienced and managed crises situations they encountered? and What are the plans and actions for embedding sustainability at a local level within a clear decision-making structure? Hence, it aims to examine urban resilience in the context of urban crisis and the associated health concerns that took place because of crisis situations, while identifying sustainable urban development initiatives and strategies that were conceived and implemented beyond crisis.

An evidence-based analytical approach is undertaken following two lines of inquiry. The first is case-based and identifies 11 cities that have experienced crisis situations and a further 10 cities that have instigated urban resilience strategies. The second is theme-based and engages with identifying strategies relevant to sustainable urban development at city and project levels. The outcomes of the two lines of inquiry are verified by mapping the lessons learned from the analysis to recent international guidance and a further co-visioning workshop with 6 experts.

The evidence-based analysis reveals key lessons which were classified under two primary types of findings: (a) lessons learned for a future urban resilience resulting from the 1st line of Inquiry (case-based) and (b) lessons learned for a future sustainable urban development resulting from the 2nd line of inquiry (theme-based). The verified lessons provide four areas that can be utilised as key priorities for future urban resilience and sustainable urban development including (a) Governance, effective communication, and decision making for city resilience and urban sustainability; (b) the social dimension of resilience and participatory practices for sustainable urban development; (c) from implicit strategies for health to positive impact on health; and (d) diversification of initiatives and localisation of sustainable development endeavours.

Research limitations/implications
There is always limitation on what a bibliometrics analysis can offer in terms of the nature of evidence and the type of knowledge generated from the investigation. This limitation manifests in the fact that the analysis engages with the body of knowledge but not based on engaging physically or socially with the contexts within which the cases took place or through empirical investigations including systematic observations, focused interviews, and attitude surveys. While the study does not generate empirical findings, the rigour of the bibliometrics analysis offers a credible and reliable evidence on how cities experienced and managed crises situations and their current plans and priority actions for embedding and localising sustainable development measures.

Practical implications
This research conveys significant implications for policy, practice, and action in that it crystalises the view that understanding urban resilience and sustainability, at the city or urban level, requires coupling the two. The findings offer a solid foundation for a more contextualised, evidence-based examination of urban resilience and sustainability during and beyond crisis. Highlighting urban and health challenges that emerged from experienced crisis situations, how these were managed and developing an understanding of sustainable urban development and local resilience strategies elucidate insights that can be adopted and acted upon by city councils and built environment practitioners.

The analysis provides comprehensive insights into urban resilience and sustainable urban development at both city and continental Europe scales in the form of key lessons that represent the first step towards developing rudiments for building a better urban future. Little is known about resilience and sustainability at these scales. The originality of this work lies in the breadth and depth for capturing an inclusive understanding of urban resilience and sustainable urban development based on systematic inquiry and scrutinising the body of knowledge emerged over the past 2 decades.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)444-470
Number of pages27
JournalSmart and Sustainable Built Environment
Issue number2
Early online date2 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2024

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