The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


i-Rec Conference: Reconstruction and Recovery in Urban Contexts

7th International i-Rec Conference and Student Competition
London, July 6-8, 2015 
The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London

Disasters and crises are occurring more frequently and with greater intensity in urban areas. Crises occurring in the urban context pose particular challenges for recovery and reconstruction, due in part to intense social inequalities, complex infrastructure and governance systems, competing agendas for access to land, density of the built environment and the numbers of people affected.

Cities can be seen as both part of the cause that create the crisis, and also part of the solution. Urban crises can be brought on by inter-related factors, such as chronic vulnerability conditions that lead to small-scale disasters, by natural hazards and conflict occurring in densely populated areas that lead to large scale disasters, when internally displaced people and refugees seek refuge in urban areas, and by the impacts from climate change.

The biannual conference hosted in 2015 by the DPU in University College London was attended by over 120 across 5 plenary sessions and 14 roundtables.

Thematic roundtables

The conference will be centred around a number of thematic roundtable sessions that will question and reshape research and practice agendas for the identification of innovative approaches to reconstruction and recovery.

Please follow the links below to read about the different sessions associated with each roundtable, and to download the abstracts and in some cases the full papers that will be presented.

Download the Conference Programme (pdf) to view the schedule

Roundtable 1: Disasters in urban contexts

This roundtable seeks to theorise disasters in urban contexts and to develop a deeper understanding of what post-disaster responses in the urban context need to be addressed. How do disasters impact on city systems and their residents? How does this understanding inform post-disaster responses in urban contexts? How do urban contexts necessitate different management and governance arrangements for reconstruction and recovery?

Roundtable 2: Housing and beyond: reconstructing lives, reconstructing cities

Post-disaster recovery in urban areas means the restoration of livelihoods, the rebuilding of infrastructure and restoring the markets that support these. How does reconstruction support the holistic recovery of affected people, addressing the needs that are most important to them? How can reconstruction support the recovery of urban systems, such as housing, water, energy, health, communications or transport? Are there ways to support these in an integrated manner?

Roundtable 3: Linking a past, present, and future: histories, urban imaginaries, urban design, and its influences on urban recovery

Cities are a product of their own culture, history and people’s imagination of future trajectories. How does the history of a place, its built environment and its people inform recovery and reconstruction? How has the history of cities contributed to their vulnerability? In what ways are people’s imaginations of place captured in reconstruction planning?

Roundtable 4: Supporting urban risk reduction through reconstruction

‘Building back better’ means that recovery aims to make a city less susceptible to future disasters and help its residents to become more resilient to a range of stresses, including climate change. Do vulnerability and risk issues addressed in reconstruction practices have lasting impacts on urban areas? Do local recovery programmes or humanitarian assistance build the capacity of local institutions?

Roundtable 5: Relocation from hazardous areas

Damage to housing caused by disasters often means that communities or authorities may demand or consider relocating communities to safer areas. In urban areas, relocation may be proposed because land is considered ‘high risk’ for future disasters, and/or because higher rents can be obtained for other uses of the land. Under what circumstances does relocation away from hazardous areas enhance people’s resilience? With what kinds of information are decisions about relocating made, who makes the decisions and what are the outcomes?

Roundtable 6: The role of local governments in recovery

Local and municipal governments are a key part of response and recovery in urban areas, although they are often under-resourced. Reconstruction of utilities and services, transport, energy and other infrastructure requires strategic planning and investments from local government. This roundtable will look at the responses of urban local governments and government departments in rebuilding and reconstruction. It will examine how reconstruction and recovery programming can better support local government.

Conference set-up

Following individual presentations (5-10 minutes each) in each round table, an informal discussion will be kicked-off by presenters on a number of participant-led choices of topic. Subsequently, the round table chair, as an expert, will extend the discussion either to a broad question put to the session as a whole, or to specific questions related to the session’s thematic orientation. More detailed information on this setup will follow after abstract submission and selection.

Student competition

Every two years, i-Rec organizes an international student competition of architectural and urban solutions for post-disaster reconstruction and disaster prevention. Participating projects must address: architectural and urban design, logistics and process-related solutions. The students are therefore encouraged to think about both the products and the processes of intervention.

To participate visit: http://www.grif.umontreal.ca/i-Rec.htm


Conference Committees

Conference Convenor

Dr. Cassidy Johnson 
The Bartlett Development Planning Unit
University College London

Core Organising Group

Fatemeh Arefian 
The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL

Dr Camillo Boano
The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Sneha Krishnan
UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering

IFRC Co-Organisers

Graham Saunders
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Ela Serdaroglu
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

UCL Affiliates

Prof. David Alexander
UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction

Ilan Kelman
UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction & UCL Institute of Global Health 

Dr. John Twigg
Centre for Urban Sustainability and Resilience

Rachel Valburn
The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

i-Rec Conference Organising Committee

Dr. Jennifer Duyne Barenstein 
Head of the World Habitat Research 
Centre University of Applied Sciences of Southern Switzerland 

Dr Lee Bosher
School of Civil and Building Engineering 
Loughborough University 

Prof. Colin Davidson 
Emeritus Professor of Architecture 
University of Montreal, Canada 

Dr. Rohit Jigyasu 
UNESCO Chair Professor 
Research Centre for Disaster Mitigation of Urban Cultural Heritage 
Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan 

Prof. Gonzalo Lizarralde 
School of Architecture and Director of GRIF 
University of Montreal

Scientific Committee

Prof. David Alexander (UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, UK) 

Prof. Adriana Allen (The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL)

Fatemeh Arefian (The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL, UK)

Dr Ali Asgary (Associate Professor of Disaster & Emergency Management, York University, Toronto, Canada)

Dr. Camillo Boano (The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL, UK)

Dr. Lee Bosher School of Civil and Building Engineering Loughborough University, UK) 

Prof. Dina D’Ayla (Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering, UCL, UK) 

Prof. Colin Davidson (Emeritus Professor of Architecture University of Montreal, Canada) 

Dr. Jennifer Duyne Barenstein (The World Habitat Research Centre, University of Applied Sciences of Southern Switzerland, Switzerland) 

Garima Jain (Indian Institute for Human Settlements, India) 

Dr. Rohit Jigyasu (Research Centre for Disaster Mitigation of Urban Cultural Heritage Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan) 

Dr. Cassidy Johnson (The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL, UK)

Dr. Ilan Kelman (UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction & UCL Institute of Global Health, UK) 

Dr. Allan Lavell (Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Costa Rica)

Prof. Gonzalo Lizarralde (School of Architecture & GRIF, University of Montreal, Canada) 

Tony Lloyd Jones (Architecture and the Built Environment Faculty, University of Westminster, UK) 

Dr. Colin Marx (The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL, UK)

Charles Parrack (School of Architecture, Oxford Brookes, UK) 

Dr. Regan Potangaroa (School of Architecture, Unitec Auckland, New Zealand) 

Prof. Tiziana Rossetto (Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering, UCL, UK) 

Prof. David Sanderson (School of Architecture, Oxford Brookes, UK) 

Maggie Stephenson (Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering, UCL, UK) 

Dr. John Twigg (Centre for Urban Sustainability and Resilience, UCL, UK) 

About i-Rec

i-Rec is a web-based international network focused on the study of reconstruction after disasters. i-Rec deals with information exchange between its members in order to contribute with knowledge related to building activities in situations of crisis, particularly disasters in developing countries.

It creates links between more than 200 specialists in the field of post-disaster reconstruction, particularly in the areas of architecture, engineering and construction, humanitarian aid, international development and social sciences. i-Rec organizes an international conference every two years: Montreal (Canada), 2002; Coventry (UK), 2004; Florence (Italy), 2006; Christchurch (New Zealand), 2008, Ahmedabad (India), 2010, Ascona (Switzerland) 2013.

The i-Rec conferences bring together academics and practitioners interested in this field. In this regard, the conferences are a suitable environment for knowledge transfer and training based on experience and research.

Follow and participate in i-Rec activities:

  • Sign up as a new member: You can upload your picture and information that can help others identify your interests, expertise and experience. You will be included in the i-Rec database.
  • Sign up to the i-Rec Google group to follow discussions among members and receive related communications.
  • You can also engage with i-Rec on Facebook and LinkedIn.


Read a series of blogs summarising the three days of the 2015 i-Rec Conference on the DPU blog