The Bartlett School of Planning


Adaptable Cities and Emergency/Recovery Planning

This research initiative focuses on the importance of adaptability and temporary urban-making and its role in emergency and recovery planning along with future crisis preparedness.

Birds eye view of the street in São Paulo, Brazil

1 April 2024


For decades, cities, places and communities have adapted in line with different types of crises and the accumulated effects of a range of ongoing dysfunctions, disruptions and uncertainties. Crises can be global and unprecedented, with a longer-term legacy (typically the COVID-19 pandemic but also the climate change emergency). Crises can also be structural and cyclical and linked to economic downturns and political shocks (e.g. cost of living crisis or migrant/refugees crisis). Cities are also characterised by planning and design crises with failing neighbourhoods and places unable to offer communities and residents decent living conditions (e.g. quality of ‘housing’ in formal and informal settings, access to facilities (including WASH) or availability of green and walkable spaces).

Crises, dysfunctions, disruptions and uncertainties have dramatic consequences on people, particularly the most vulnerable, but also on places (with the spread of fragments and left overs) and policies (which often fail to tackle intersectional burdens and account for the most hidden voices). All impact the access to key needs and rights (typically education, play/leisure, housing, food, green spaces etc.). Adaptations thus emerge as modes of coping and resilience but also as innovative experimentations which foster new ways of thinking about and making cities.

Our work focuses on the importance of adaptability and temporary urban-making and its role in emergency and recovery planning but also future crisis preparedness. This includes unwrapping how cities are and should be planned and designed (and for whom), how they are / should be governed but also (self)-regulated and what are the implications in terms of liveability, wellbeing, sustainability, resilience but also survival. Linked to this is the question of how the use of spaces (both indoor and outdoor spaces – typically streets) can be adapted permanently or temporarily. All converge with the goal of shaping and driving transformative changes to impact people’s lives and respond to key priorities (resilience, social justice, climate change, socio-economic inequalities).

This research initiative is founded upon two core principles: interdisciplinary, being anchored within planning, urban design, urban studies and geography debates; and international dialogues with research conducted globally and in diverse urban contexts in South and North America, UK/Europe, Africa, Asia (China and Hong Kong) and the Middle East.


Professor Lauren Andres, The Bartlett School of Planning
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Dr Paul Moawad, The Bartlett School of Planning
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Dr Lucy Natarajan, The Bartlett School of Planning
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Xuewei Chen, The Bartlett School of Planning
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Professor Mike Raco, The Bartlett School of Planning
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External Members:

Professor Peter Kraft

Dr Francesco Rossini

Yuxi Zhang

Professor Marcus Zepf

Professor Aya Sakai

Dr Federica Appendino

Professor Lochner Marais

Dr Abraham Matamanda

Dr Stuart


Dr Leandro Giatti

Dr Cristiana Zara

Dr Luciana Bizzotto


The initiative is directly linked to several ongoing research projects : 1) the PANEX-YOUTH (ESRC) project, looking at the adaptations of vulnerable children and young people in regard to their access to education, food, play/leisure during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, 2) the ADAPT4 (British Academy) focusing on how cities across the G7 (and specifically London, New York, Paris and Tokyo) adapted their outdoor spaces in times of crisis and what lessons can be learnt for future crisis preparedness and 3) the Temporary Urban Making in Asian Cities project focusing on hybrid temporary urbanism and the governance of fragments in Hong Kong and Chinese cities.

The initiative brings these projects and research teams together and will be used as a platform to connect this work to wider internal and external audiences while opening new research directions. It also has a strong policy and practical angle which supports ongoing impact-led activities, at both national and international levels.

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Photo by Gustavo Nacht on Unsplash