Resilient cities #1: Developing new forms of governance

Fostering resilience is a community matter. French journalist and documentary filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin states: “On the ground, those projects that are performing the best are led by motivated citizens and supported by municipalities that listen to them”.

A few years ago, Christchurch, New Zealand, experienced a series of earthquakes that caused extensive damage to the city’s infrastructure. Despite being in deep shock, the city decided to turn this tragedy into an opportunity: rebuilding the city together. Mayor Lianne Dalziel wants to empower community organisations in the process of building a new Christchurch.
Citizens have their say in new urban plans: some would like to build a central eco-friendly business district, while others imagine a city of smaller villages where central services are located within walking distance. 
As Mayor Dalziel writes, “Resilience is not about government (central or local) doing things for communities, businesses, or organisations; it is about enabling those groups to do things for themselves. Building a resilient city starts at the grassroots level, so that bottom-up meets top-down halfway.”

A municipality sharing this point of view is Barcelona, Spain

Considered one of the “smartest” cities in the world, Barcelona however does not forget that smartness is as much about empowering citizens as making use of technology. One of the big ongoing projects the municipality is part of is the Fab City project (coordinated by the IAAC, Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia), which consists of creating a local network of Fab Labs to make the neighbourhoods “people-centred and productive”.

A Fabrication Laboratory is a small-scale workshop offering digital fabrication. Tomas Diez, one of the initiators of the Fab Lab Barcelona, explains: “These laboratories are open, collaborative spaces that don’t prioritise financial profit or academic excellence.
Instead, they aim to resolve local problems with available tools, drawing on an international knowledge network.”

There are already three Fab Labs in the city, with a fourth to come soon. 
Some entirely rely on public funds while others (such as the “Fab Lab Barcelona”) are financed through a mix of public and private money. The city council expects to open at least 12 labs in the next few years through the Fab City project. 
Manel Sanromà, Chief Information Officer for Barcelona City Council, says: “Our ultimate goal is that every district of Barcelona should have at least one Fab [Lab], in line with the vision of people-centred and productive neighbourhoods in Barcelona, where production progresses from a centralised, standardised model in a globalised planet to a distribution model where it is the citizens themselves that co-create their own environment and manage their own consumption in a sustainable and intelligent way.”

Read our dossier “Future-proof cities: Is resilience the key?” in the latest issue of Energy Cities INFO magazine (p.4-6).


Publication date

May 11, 2015