Creating Resilient and Livable Cities

An Asia Society/Urban Land Institute Report from the 2014 Forum

Pedestrians in Manila negotiate a flooded street. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty)

A new Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative (PCSI) report published by Asia Society and Urban Land Institute presents practical strategies for cities seeking to become more resilient and more livable. Cities across the Asia Pacific are rapidly urbanizing, and face growing pressures to becoming more sustainable. In fact, more than 50 percent of the world's population now lives in urban areas. Population growth, access to housing, resilience to natural disasters, and environmental sustainability are issues that all Pacific cities share in common. Recent disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated large areas of the Philippines, and concerns over air pollution in cities like Beijing and Hong Kong, highlight the urgency of not only making cities more resilient, but making them more livable for their citizens.

The report, “Creating Resilient and Livable Cities,” presents insights from a team of expert cross-sector contributors from the PCSI urban sustainability network, including architects, urban planners, policymakers, and researchers. The report expands on key themes discussed at PCSI’s 2nd Annual Forum, held in Manila, Philippines, in March 2014, and topics in the report include: how good governance, disaster preparedness, planning cities for people, and building resilient infrastructure all contribute to livable, resilient cities.

The authors propose practical steps that municipal leaders, businesses, and even citizens can take to help make their cities more resistant to disaster and the impacts of climate change, and at the same time, to create places that are more attractive to live, work, and play. Recommendations range from the immediately practical, for example creating a communications plan pre-disaster, to more complex undertakings, such as forming an overall urban vision for the city.

As the authors make clear, a key component to addressing resiliency in cities is flexibility. The ability to adapt to sudden changes and incorporate new information quickly will be a hallmark of success for those cities facing the increasingly unpredictable impacts of climate change — from coastal flooding, to extreme storms and heat waves.

Taking steps toward making cities more livable is also key to achieving long term sustainability and economic competitiveness in rapidly growing Asia Pacific metro regions. Efficient, reliable public transportation, green public spaces, and clean air and water are essential components that make a city livable, pleasant, and people-oriented.

The contributors include case studies and examples from their own experiences living and working in cities across the Asia Pacific, including Manila, Christchurch, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and more. The report closes with a report from an ongoing project in the Philippines, “The Livable Cities Design Challenge,” which takes many of the recommendations in this report into action via a Philippines-wide design and planning competition aimed at making cities more livable and resilient.

The publication will also be released at a San Francisco launch event: "Cities at Risk." This public panel discussion features guest experts Rafael Lopa (Philippine Business for Social Progress), Patrick Otellini (San Francisco’s Chief Resiliency Officer), and Jeffrey Heller (Heller Manus Architects), and moderator Andy Thompson (ARUP) who will share lessons learned between Manila and San Francisco, and discuss how their respective cities are working to address resiliency while improving livability.

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